Lowered fines, improved communications between officials and restaurant proprietors, and test runs of ungraded inspections are part of a broad legislation package announced yesterday by Speaker Quinn at Jerry's Café in the financial district, the Times and others report. Restaurant owners have faced a sharp increase of inspection-related fines since Mayor Bloomberg introduced the letter grading system in 2010, from a total of $33 million to $51.4 million last year. Critics have argued that several small businesses, including institutions like El Faro in the West Village, have been put out of business because they've been unable to cope with fines.
Speaker Quinn has called publicly for a reduction in fines twice in the last year, in August and October, and this new legislation is the most comprehensive effort of its kind. The underlying idea is to increase communications between the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, its inspectors, and restaurant owners while lessening fines. The package includes the chance for a business to undergo a "practice test" without incurring penalties. A spokesperson for the NYC Hospitality Alliance, an advocacy group, noted that the proposed legislation also entails the creation of an ombuds office, a proposed code of conduct for on-the-job inspectors, and greater transparency of data related to grading.
Quinn Proposes Smaller Fines for Restaurants [NYT]
Earlier: Health Inspectors Really Need to Start Spending More Time in Restaurant Kitchens
Related: El Faro Closed Indefinitely After Health Department Shutdown