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City Council Approves Major Changes To Restaurant Grading System

Many Fines Will Be Lowered Dramatically Under New Plan
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Restaurant Grading

A foodservice establishment with a B grade from the Department of Health. (Credit: Gary Baumgarten/1010 WINS)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City Council on Wednesday approved a package of bills that will reduce the fines restaurant owners pay for minor health infractions.

As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Gusto Ristorante e Bar Americano, at 60 Greenwich Ave., is a family-run restaurant. The manager said the fines for violations have really hurt the restaurant’s budget in the past, and reducing the fines is what he wanted to hear.

“We’ve received fines for up to $2,000, up to $3,000,” he said. “This will be a great change for us.”

The restaurant letter-grading system was a signature accomplishment of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. But many restaurateurs have said the grading system has put them on the verge of going out of business.

But under the plan passed Wednesday, the fines will be lowered to $200 for many minor issues.

In the new fine system, 60 percent of all violations will result only in the minimum $200 fine, and many of the most commonly issued violations will be see their resulting fines cut by a range of 15 to 50 percent, according to a news release issued in August.

The changes to the grading system also include a hotline for the restaurant owners to file a complaint, and a pamphlet with a code of conduct so restaurant owners know what to expect from an inspector.

Further, any restaurant with a fine point total of less than 14 after its initial inspection has been addressed will not have to pay any fines for that inspection. And if a restaurant is hit with a violation for structural irregularity such as a sink in the wrong place, but can prove that the configuration has never resulted in a fine during previous inspections, the restaurant will be ordered to fix the problem without paying any fine, the release said.

Altogether, the changes will reduce the total fines collected by more than $10 million per year, the release said.

Last year, the city collected $52 million in fines, compared to $33 million the year earlier, according to the New York Times.

Another restaurant manager said restaurants and customers will both benefit.

“You need a place that’s clean. If you are a restaurant that’s like, say, like a C grade and isn’t changing, the punishment is shut down,” she said. “I think that’s fair.”

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