City restaurants may soon get a break from paying hefty fines for health violations. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has proposed changes to the city's letter grading system for restaurants.
All eateries would still undergo inspections and be required to post letter grades in windows, but fines would be reduced under the legislative package unveiled by Quinn on Monday.
"With this legislative package, we’re taking steps to ensure that the restaurant inspection process is fair. These reforms will improve the lives of struggling restaurant owners, the workers they employ and the families they support, while preserving a system that protects the safety of New Yorkers," the speaker said.
Quinn also proposed fees be waived for restaurants who contest their grades and ultimately receive an A at an administrative tribunal. Restaurants are currently required to pay fines even if they successfully appeal their initial inspection score.
The letter grading system, first implemented by the Bloomberg administration in 2010, has been scrutinized by restaurant owners who argue that the system is punitive. They say communication between inspectors and restaurant owners is poor and that the criteria for inspections is inconsistent.
Under the proposed legislation, restaurant owners could request a consultative, ungraded inspection for educational purposes. In addition, there would be an ombuds office to address complaints and inspectors would distribute a code of conduct pamphlet to restaurant owners prior to the initial inspection.