In a blog post today, Rafael Mateo of Pata Negra compares the Health Department to Boss Tweed, detailing the $3,000 in fines they’ve levied against his tiny wine bar in their “witch hunt”: “Will an inspector be coming once a month to be assessing fines until I receive an ‘A’? Is my business an ATM for the city? There is only one word for this assault — usury.” He describes having to spend an entire day waiting for a hearing and how he was eventually compelled to throw his hands up in defeat.
I decided against going through the entire humiliating process of waiting only to be heard and fined. The DOH gives owners this option: Pay without a hearing in advance and the bill is discounted 10%, but relinquish your rights to argue the fines in the future. I woke up on my own time, had an espresso, paid $1000. in advance and went home, distraught but not drained from a day of hell and usury. Total tally so far — $3000.
I thought this was over. Then another inspector walks in….
Lest you think the Health Department is the bad guy in all this, The Wall Street Journal follows up on the crackdown on home restaurants and an associate health commissioner claims that the DOH has actually helped small-time food vendors, for instance by loosening the ban on beekeeping (hence those red bees in Red Hook!) and by catering temporary food-service-establishment permits to Brooklyn Flea types.