The Big Picture

In the continuing struggle to  bring fairness to the DOH grading system policy, I have shared some of my frustrations on this blog and recently to the Wall Street Journal whose numbers cannot be refuted.

Restaurant Owners Feeling Taxed by Grading – WSJ.com

I would like to add to the story, and be very clear as to my intentions for bringing the problems restaurant owners are facing to light.

There absolutely needs to be a city agency responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the public in all dining establishments, big or small, from street vendors to caterers, bars, cafes and restaurants.  My issue with the DOH is that by definition of its practices, there is little useful collaboration between the two parties, owners and the DOH.

It is redundant, but important to review the process in brief.  An inspector walks into an establishment, chooses at his/her discretion possible violations that is targeted and written up.  There is a complicated point system that a law degree couldn’t help one decipher.  The owner is given a court date, spends an entire day in a room with other owners, and is summoned to a private room before a judge who tapes and listens as owner addresses each violation.  The judge sends owner back to the waiting room and after a long wait (minimum of one half hour), owner receives a bill, from $200. to $2000. per violation regardless if the violations were corrected and proven so.  Owner has one month to pay and can only appeal after payment.

Each inspector has his/her own agenda in terms of what violations to assess, and each judge doles out fines at his/her own discretion.  Expediters who make money by handling this process for the owners for a substantial fee know which judges are preferable and more lenient.

If the goal of the DOH is the safety and welfare of the public, why isn’t there any cooperation between owner and agency?  If a violation is corrected, why must the owner still pay a fine?

All I am saying is that a system can be implemented to bring a restaurant up to code before it opens, as well as maintain cleanliness and safety throughout its operation.  Owners who refuse to comply can be fined heavily or shut down.

I am willing to be part of the process for change and I can’t imagine other restaurant owners don’t feel the same way.  If the mayor and the city claim they are all for small businesses, then the current practices at the DOH is a good place to start.

I would like to thank all of those who have supported me in my quest for positive change.

Chef Mateo