New Council Agreement Reduces Restaurant Inspection Fines By $10 Million A Year

Photo via Justin Brannan
Photo via Justin Brannan

Councilman Vincent Gentile and Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a deal with the Department of Health (DOH) that would reduce restaurant fines across the board and introduce specific fines for violations. In a press release from Gentile’s office, it was announced that the new deal would reduce overall fines by $10 million per year.

The press release explained specifics of the deal between the City Council and the DOH:

Previously, violations could result in a fine between $200 and $2,000, at the discretion of a hearing officer. Under the new fine structure, 60% of all violations will be set to the minimum $200 fine, and many of the most commonly issued violations will be reduced by between 15% – 50% from the current fine average. In addition, any restaurant whose point total is less than 14 after adjudication on its initial inspection will not have to pay any fines for that inspection. Finally, if a restaurant receives a violation for a structural irregularity, such as an improperly placed sink, but can prove that the configuration had never been cited as a problem during previous inspections, that violation will be waived, though the restaurant will still be required to fix the problem. (emphasis theirs)

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley praised the common sense approach to refining the grading system.

“At this point, moving to fixed fines will help give the system more predictability, and even with reduced fines, the grading system will continue to encourage restaurant managers to prepare food safely,” Farley said.

In the release, Gentile noted that in his legislation the DOH will be required to distribute an instructional pamphlet with updated codes prior to initial inspections. Gentile hoped that this would lead to more cooperation relationship between the DOH and restaurants:

“In order to help these businesses grow and succeed, health inspectors must work with restaurants owners rather than attempt to catch them off guard and penalize them,” said Council Member Vincent J. Gentile. “My bill develops an inspection code of conduct pamphlet based on standards that exist in the restaurant inspection process.  As inspectors will be required to distribute the pamphlet to all restaurant owners and operators prior to an inspection, this bill ensures that everyone is aware of how inspections ought to proceed and no one is caught off guard. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy – it’s time for us to start acting like it.”

Anthony Dell’Orto, president of the New York City Chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, saluted the measure.

“The restaurant business is already one of the hardest to make a profit, and smaller fines means more money in the pockets of middle class small business owners. We applaud the city for reaching an agreement that allows this industry to continue to grow and provide both healthy food and good jobs to all New Yorkers,” Dell’Orto said.