It's no secret that the Health Department's stricter restaurant inspection system has been a boon for city government. According to budget records obtained by the Daily News, City Hall will take in $48 million in restaurant fines this fiscal year, up 50% from 2009. But talk to a bar or restaurant owner, and chances are you'll hear an angry account of overzealous Health Department inspectors leaving common sense behind. Now it appears that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has heard their cries, and will introduce legislation reforming the DOH inspection system.
Robert Bookman, counsel to the New York City Hospitality Alliance, tells the News that Quinn and other City Councilmembers "are definitely working on the bill. There’s a universal feeling among the City Council that something must be done to rein in the Health Department.” Quinn has declined to comment on the legislation, but she's previously called on the DOH to adjust its inspection system to mirror the 100-point format in LA. NYC restaurants are graded on a 1,200-point system, which is so detailed "it includes penalties for cutting boards with too many grooves," the News reports.
Last year one Williamsburg bar owner, who declined to give his name out of fear of DOH retaliation, told us, "Bars are stuck with this fucking Health Department that is just destroying everything. Inspectors are spending three-and-a-half hours on a 900 foot bar without even a kitchen. Rye just got slammed, the Turkey's Nest just got reamed. Every time the Health Department walks in, it's $3-$4,000."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has also questioned the allegedly excessive fines doled out by the Health Department and government agencies, and recently sued the city to get records detailing the soaring fines. Any legislation reforming the DOH that gets passed by the City Council would need Mayor Bloomberg's signature, which won't be easy. A Bloomberg spokesman recently insisted that "restaurants are cleaner" because of the tighter DOH regulations.