2011-02-18 / Top Stories

Restaurant Grades Appearing Slowly

By Nicholas Briano

Only one-third of Rockaway peninsula restaurants have been assigned a letter grade under the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOH) new inspection system that started last July.

Restaurants are inspected at least once a year, according to DOH. Despite the new rating system, the same conditions will be cited as violations, such as unsafe work conditions, hygiene, potential for bacteria growth, vermin, or whether or not a menu item was made with trans fat oils, just to name a few.

Out of the 105 restaurants in Rockaway currently listed by the DOH, only 35 have been assigned a letter grade to date with another 14 currently assigned a “grade pending” status. This means the restaurant has been inspected and is awaiting a hearing to challenge their inspection grades, a right the restaurant owner has if he or she disagrees with the inspection score, according to a spokesperson for DOH.

That leaves 56 restaurants along the peninsula with a “not yet graded” status. The zip code confines of 11694 has seen the highest percentage of letter grades assigned to its establishments with 15 out of 35 restaurants receiving letter grades. Meanwhile 13 out of 42 restaurants in Far Rockaway (11691) have been graded.

Scores can be seen in their entirety with details of each violation at nyc.gov/doh. A base point value is assigned to each violation. A Public Health Hazard is the most severe type of violation and typically has a base point value of 7; other Critical Violations have a base point value of 5; and General Violations have a base point value of 2, according to DOH.

Under the new guidelines, restaurant owners are required to display the letter grade in their front window. Restaurants receiving 0 to 13 violation points would receive an A grade. Those with 14 to 27 points would get B’s, and those with more than 28 points would get C’s. According to DOH, however, a restaurant receiving an A will post its grade card at the end of the inspection. A restaurant receiving a B or C will not be required to post its grade immediately. These establishments are re-inspected within a month, giving them a chance to improve upon the initial grade. However, if the restaurant owner still disagrees, he or she can request a hearing to challenge the grade.

DOH officials cannot determine when every Rockaway restaurant will receive a letter grade.

“Every restaurant is on a different inspection cycle,” DOH spokesperson Zoe Tobin said.

According to a recent DOH published report, the department is slightly behind schedule on its plan to grade all of the city’s 24,000 restaurants by the Fall of 2011. The agency now expects to grade every restaurant in the city by the end of 2011.

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