On Wednesday New York City rolled out its new system of awarding letter grades to restaurants. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley presented an A to Spark’s Deli in Long Island City.
“We’re happy to get the A,” said Jose Araujo, co-owner of the 24-seat restaurant located at 2831 Borden Avenue, “but now we have to pay $800 for nonfood-related violations,” he said. Among the nonfood violations the restaurant was cited for was a cashier drinking coffee in a nonfood area.
“Every time a health inspector comes in here, I know it’s going to cost me,” Araujo told the New York Times.
The inspectors also handed out B and C grades; however, customers in the city’s 24,000 restaurants likely won’t see them posted until fall. That is because restaurants that do not receive an A will later be automatically re-inspected, and can appeal their grades at administrative hearings.
Araujo said he thought the new system was “a public service, keeping people from getting sick, but every system is flawed,” adding, “I’m just happy I didn’t get any critical violations for food preparation.”
“Customers have no idea of the cleanliness of a restaurant,” said Jose Montesino, a retail manager for Heineken. “I know the food is safe.”
The health department also unveiled its new website which allows consumers to more easily search for restaurants’ ratings. Although consumers could look up ratings on the previous site, they were less accessible and updated weekly. Now, for the most part, the site will be refreshed every evening.
Not only is the new site designed to display restaurants’ letter grades, but also to detail the specifics of past violations. It lets users search by letter grades in specific ZIP codes and by boroughs, dates of inspection, and types of food. Dozens of national cuisines are listed, from Afghan to SE Asian.
“I have eaten street food in China, so my standards are not that strict,” said one consumer. “But if you saw the words ‘rat feces’ on the Website? Well, that is definitely going to influence you.”
Jake Dell, a manager at Katz’s, on East Houston Street in Manhattan, said the depth of detail on the Web site did not trouble him “because we at Katz’s like the idea of transparency.”
“We look forward to getting the opportunity to get our A,” he said.
Although the process could take more than a year, all city restaurants will be required to post letter placards prominently–on a front window, door, or exterior wall within five feet of the restaurant’s entrance, four to six feet off the ground.