Next month the Health Department will begin requiring the city's 24,000 food-service establishments to post letter grades that summarize the results of food-safety inspections. But although the change is definitely happening, officials gave restaurant owners one last chance to vent about it at a public hearing on Tuesday. And vent they did!

"This system is going to put people out of business," predicted Martin Shapiro, a managing partner of Tribeca Grill. Marc Murphy, chef and owner of Landmarc Restaurant in TriBeCa, predicted that "no one will come in" restaurants with a C grade. "They might as well close shop. Everyone in our business is not against health inspections, but we don’t want bad letter grades from trivial infractions."

The new rules [pdf] will give restaurants rated with the highest grade a blue A grade, a green B for a less sanitary but still passing grade, and a yellow C for a failing grade. A similar letter grading system has been in effect in LA for a decade, and 91 percent of people surveyed approved of the program, according to a study by LA's Health Department.

But Robert Bookman at the New York State Restaurant Association says the two cities aren't comparable because inspection standards are different. "82 percent of restaurants would get an A score in Los Angeles, but only 30 percent of New York restaurants would," Bookman said. Or as another critic put it, "In L.A., it’s basically a joke — everyone gets an A." Last week we interviewed Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein about letter grading; she told us "There are those restaurateurs who would prefer to keep their inspections a secret. They are a powerful lobby, and may have some success in modifying proposals to regulate them."