Restaurant Law Blog

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quinn Strikes Deal to Cut Fines for Health Code Violations by $10 Million

With the Mayoral election coming up, City Council speaker Christine Quinn is doing her best to get the votes of restaurant owners throughout New York City. In recent months, Quinn proposed a reduction in fines for health code violations in restaurants, and it seems that she is delivering on her promise. Quinn just struck a deal with the Department of Health that is expected to cut fines by $10 million a year and add some consistency to the restaurant inspection process.

Prior to the recent changes, fines ranged from $200 to $2000 per violation, as determined by a hearing officer. Under the new fine structure, 60% of violations will be set to a $200 fine and the remaining violations will be reduced by 15-50% of the current fines. Additionally, restaurants that receive less than 14 points after the hearing on their initial inspection will not have to pay any fines for that inspection. And finally, if a restaurant gets a violation for a structural irregularity (e.g., an improperly placed sink), but can demonstrate that they had never been cited for the irregularity in the past, that violation will be waived.

As any restaurant owner knows, restaurant inspections are almost always accompanied by hefty fines in addition to the threat of a “B” or “C” letter grade in one’s window. In this economy, fines are more of a burden than ever before, and many restaurant owners are struggling to keep up with increasing rents, a looming healthcare mandate for employees, an increase in the minimum wage, and a potential ban on Styrofoam containers. (Notably, Quinn has supported the minimum wage increase and the Styrofoam ban, which may counteract her appeal to restaurant owners, despite her efforts to reduce fines.)

Any improvements in the inspection process are a welcome change considering fines for restaurant owners had been escalating dramatically: a total of $33 million in fines were imposed in 2010 when the letter grading system was introduced, and in 2012 the total increased to a whopping $52 million. The new fine structure implemented by Quinn and the Department of Health has the ability to continue to promote clean and healthy restaurant establishments without causing unnecessary financial burdens on the restaurant owners throughout the city.

If you have questions about the inspection process or would like us to review your recent Department of Health inspection report, contact DiPasquale Law Group for a free consultation.


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