City Council, DOH Agree to Reduce Restaurant Fines
Previously, DOH hearing officers had the discretion to move fine amounts between $200 and $2,000. Under the new fine structure, 60% of all violations will default to the minimum $200 fine, with many commonly-issued violations being cut by 15% - 50% from the current average.
For any restaurant with a point total under 14 on its initial inspection, fines would be waived. Violations would be waived for first-time citations for structural problems, such as an improperly placed sink, but restaurants would still have to fix the problem.
The DOH fine reduction deal, part of a bigger package of legislative reforms, will be introduced in the council on August 22.
Restaurant letter grading was intended as an incentive for restaurants to adopt best food handling practices, according to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, not to generate additional revenues. Given that no known connection exists between higher fines and better sanitary behavior by restaurants, reduced fines strike a better balance, she said.
According to the DOH, its letter grading system is working: restaurant practices, and public health, are improving. That trend is expected to continue, even with reduced fines.
Under the new legislation, DOH would develop an "inspection code of conduct" pamphlet for distribution to all restaurant owners and operators before the initial inspection. Council Member Vinnie Gentile, who authored this provision, wants to see more collaboration between health inspectors and restaurants -- and less "gotcha."
Small business are the backbone of the local economy, he said, and it's time the city started acting like it.
Posted by Kip at Sunday, August 18, 2013