A Staten Island restaurateur, sick and tired of the Health Department shaking restaurants down, is taking matters into his own hands (kind of), giving a big old "screw you" to the agency that's already shut him down.
Charles Hermansen, the owner of Cucina di Napoli in Tottenville, says the DOH came after him with a vengeance after he spoke out against the agency, claiming that inspectors were "harassing" Staten Island restaurants with heft fines for minor infractions to pad their own till. A few days later, inspectors came knocking on his door on a busy Saturday night, saying they wanted to "see him at his worst," and fined the restaurant with 54 violation points (see the full report here), enough to shutter it immediately. Hermanson further claims that his bid to reopen was delayed because he refused to write an apology to the inspectors for his rude behavior, though the DOH denies requiring anything of the sort. “I truly believe that this is a vendetta because I opened my mouth and I’m trying to fight City Hall,” said Hermansen. He has since officially shuttered the restaurant and plans to sell the space.
SILive has a detailed investigation of the case, in which the head of the borough's Bar and Restaurant Association says they're considering a class-action lawsuit against the city to recoup "unreasonable fines." "It's like they're printing money and we're the printing press; soon they're going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg," he said. It's a bit hyperbolic, but the numbers don't lie: DOH has, indeed, raked in millions since the letter-grading system began—so maybe Hermansen was a marked man, after all.