2012-02-17 / Top Stories

Letter Grades For Grocery Stores, Bodegas?

By Howard Schwach

If a Queens lawmaker has his way, grocery stores, bodegas and even supermarkets might soon by subject to the same rules and Department of Health regulations faced by city restaurants.

Published reports say that State Senator Toby Avella wants the city’s health department to inspect the grocery stores and farmer’s markets rather than the state’s Agriculture Department, the agency that presently has responsibility for those inspections.

Avella says that the state agency is not up to the job because most sanitary violations occur in the evening and state inspectors work only daytime hours, while city health department inspectors work all hours.

The dichotomy between city and state is often confusing.

For example, restaurants clearly fall under the city’s purviews.

Grocery stores that sell hot food they make on the premises and have a few tables for customers, however, are sometimes considered restaurants and sometimes markets.

The question arose recently in Rockaway when it was found that Plum Tomatoes, an Italian restaurant on Beach 129 Street, was not inspected by the city for several years and had no restaurant rating.

The store right next door to

Plum Tomatoes, Bon Appétit, had not been inspected by the city because, the DOH said, it is a market.

Bon Appétit, however, cooks and serves a large variety of meat and fish dishes as well as side dishes to go with them.

And, while restaurants are graded by the city, there are no grades associated with the infrequent state inspections.

One local market owner, who asked not to be identified because he fears retribution from the city should the new plan go into effect, said on Tuesday that the plan was just another way to get money from storeowners.

“There is no problem with the present system,” he said. “This is only another way for the city and the state to collect fines. Today, that’s the name of the game.”

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