2.03.2009

Restaurant Letter Grades in DC?


There's been talk of this over on DCist, and over at the City Paper's City Desk. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh plans to introduce legislation implementing a letter-grade system for restaurant cleanliness. This would be similar to the system they have in Los Angeles, which I am only familiar with because of The Shield. A similar idea is in the works in New York City, as well.

There's been little "official" response to this, as they story has not received a whole lot of media attention yet. I think it's safe to say that most residents/restaurant patrons will welcome this, and most restaurant owners will not. I'm going to echo a few concerns, and I'm curious what people here think.

The first main argument against this is that the city can't possibly have enough inspectors to make this work. Also, the system is most likely already so corrupt, that anyone with enough money can just purchase an "A" grade. If, and a big if, it would be possible to accurately inspect all food serving establishments with a decent frequency, then I think this could be a good idea. Right now, you can go into a restaurant and you have no idea what the last inspection found, and you wouldn't have a clue if the restaurant had just reopened after a 2 week closure for rat feces in the kitchen.

Example, did you know the Johnny Rockets in Georgetown has been closed before because of rats? Well, if you eat at Johnny Rockets, I assume you have no concern for your health (or money), but that's just one example. You'd expect the Popeye's on 14th (Logan Circle) to have been cited for rats (it has been), but you might not expect some of the others.

Restaurants will cry foul, that a poor letter grade could come from just one bad day, and would destroy their business. This is true, a poor letter grade would, most likely, cost them many customers. However, I'm appaled by this idea that a restaurant should get a pass for having "one bad day." If it's an issue such as the hot water was out for one day, then perhaps. But most other problems are not so temporary... I don't think you see many cases of a 24 hour-only rat infestation. One bad day is enough for people to get sick, so it should be enough to get you a bad grade. The caveat here, though, is that if restaurants must display these letter grades, there should be enough inspectors to allow a re-inspection after a drop in grade.

Do you think this is a bad time to be doing this? Should we let things slide as we fall into recession?

For some good information on food safety, check out The Barf Blog.

15 comments:

  1. Some of the shit that restaurants get cited for is pretty over the top. My problem with this, is that most people will probably assume that anything other than an "A" is really bad, but because the scale is a simplification of a long checklist, a non-A grade could mean many things. Most of which probably are not a big deal.

    How often do people get sick eating out at places other than fast-food restaurants? Any remotely respectable restaurant would get killed forever in the media if they made a customer sick. And we all assume that we are eating shit when we go to a fast-food restaurant, anyway.

    And considering how most of the stuff we buy at the supermarket these days will probably kill us, now peanuts, in addition to all meat, egg, tomatoes and spinach. Restaurants seem a pretty small issue.

    I don't see a lot of value. If you are really anal about this stuff, then just go online and look up the restaurant in question.

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  2. This is why I hate dc:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/opinion/03brooks.html?_r=1

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  3. I think David Brooks actually gets it pretty right there.

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  4. SoCal has a system like this. They go around and inspect and you get an A, B or C. C's have 30 days to get to B or they close down. While restaurants are supposed to display their letter, shockingly, the B's and C'd disappear and the owners claim they were stolen.

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  5. Having dealt with a number of DC Inspectors over the years, I am firmly against this concept. Not because I am in the tank for all restaurants but because the current system of "scoring violations" doesn't support it. There are too many "serious violations" which are barely within restaurant control or so quickly remedied.

    The grades can be a good thing if they are accompanied by a serious and bilateral review of the standards which have not seen real modifications in decades.

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  6. Very AnonymousFebruary 03, 2009

    Doesnt the Russian and Italian mafia both own stakes in certain restaurants in the DC/MD/VA area?

    That right there ought to make for some very interesting local restaurant reviews.

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  7. I give those niggas in Baltimore a D-!

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  8. Dont fuck with the Russian or Italian mob's alternate methods of generating income.

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  9. Atlanta, GA requires all fast food spots and restaurants to post their health food inspection score in an area viewable by the consumer. The inspection record lists what the place was cited for/needs to fix and uses a numeric score. 100-90 is an A, 89-80 is a B, 79-70 is a C, and so forth. I appreciated having the opportunity to view what a restaurant scored and also what they were cited for. Improper food storage and handling, hand washing, and pests would be a good indication that eating there would give me the opportunity to loose a few pounds after food poisoning. In this age of e. coli and salmonella poisoning, health record scores being readily accessible is something we can all benefit from.

    Check out the Dekalb county website at the link below. They post the scores online and let you search for restaurants using a number of different variables.

    http://www.dekalbhealth.net/information/restaurant-inspections.asp

    Nettypooh

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  10. "In this age of e. coli and salmonella poisoning"

    ?????

    This age, as opposed to past ages with higher hygienic standards? What are you talking about?

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  11. I hate this fucking city.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Who cares, nobody is going to be able to afford to eat out tomorrow anyway.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8hMJVXt09E

    And for that matter, even if we could afford it, the restraunts will all be closed since all 300,000,000 of us are all going to be out of work along with another 200,000,000 imaginary Americans are getting a pink slip too.

    I'll tell you what I hate about DC. Only in DC could hyberbole spewing, moronic fucktards like Nancy Pelosi, Christopher Dodd or Dick Cheney have jobs, let alone high paying jobs.

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  14. There is an iPhone application that works in all of Virginia. Called "Clean Eats"...it gives all the health inspector comments and a normalized score...seems pretty decent...

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  15. Let the restaurants deal with the DC government like everyone else. These restaurants that don't want letter grades are the same ones claim they are being run out of business by food trucks.

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