This week the New York City Department of Health rolled out its final rules for a system that will require restaurants to post letter grades based on inspection scores beginning in late July. For the first time, signs bearing A, B or C ratings will be issued to the city’s more than 24,000 restaurants to publicly announce their cleanliness.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Health Department said it will take about 14 months before the 8-by-10-inch placards appear in every store front.
After an inspection, those that receive a B or C grade can opt for a second inspection several weeks later. Those that contest their grade can post a “grade pending” sign until after their second inspection.
Once the program is enacted, “we expect to see rapid improvement in inspection scores,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner, during a press conference Tuesday. “We hope that when people are making choices where to eat, they will eat at an A restaurant.”
The current 156 inspectors will increase to 180 by July 15, when health inspectors plan to start the new system.
Daniel Kass, a deputy commissioner stated that restaurant operators who fail to pose their letter signs will incur a fine that is likely to be $1,000.
According to the New York Times, Farley, Kass, and Elliott S. Marcus, an associate health commissioner, detailed the provisions of the controversial plan, which has provoked outrage from restaurateurs, bar owners and their trade-association representatives since it was announced 18 months ago.
Critics have argued that this system will be confusing to customers and possibly result in the closure of city restaurants that earn C grades.
“It would have been better if the city had done Beta testing on this plan for six months before implementing it,” said Robert Bookman, legislative counsel for the New York City chapters of the New York State Restaurant Association–the operators’ trade group. “The city doesn’t know how many restaurants it will put out of business, and how that will affect the city’s economy.”
At the press conference Farley said, “the essential part of the new regulation is the public posting, so we had no choice but to roll it out.” He added that critics made similar predictions when the city banned smoking and required calories to be posted in some restaurants.
Under the program the city will supply placards to restaurants that can be easily identified by customers. A blue A will represent the highest grade, a green B for a less sanitary but still passing grade, and a yellow C for a failing grade.