Opposition to Yelp’s Integration of Department of Health Letter Grades
Today, Yelp announced their plans to integrate hygiene grades on restaurant review pages in New York and San Francisco, but not without backlash from at least one business owner who claims the New York City Department of Health is “completely flawed” in regard to these inconsistent inspection policies. Because of this
NYNightlife received a forwarded email from Stephen C. Maly, a managing partner at Libation, Park Avenue Tavern and Good Company. The email from Mr. Maly stated:
In light of the new policy of Yelp working with the NYC Department of Health to post letter grades of restaurants we will have to respectfully decline the Good Company drink specials for Yelp drink week. I was really excited to open the doors to potential new customers at Good Company and I have always been a yelp supporter, but I feel Yelp has taken a step in the wrong direction from working with business owners.My gripe is not with Yelp or the purpose of the tool, but with the letter grading system of NYC itself. I know this decision has nothing to do with you or elite yelpers, but morally, it would be unfair of me to support something that is associated with the letter grade system that currently in place. I have attended City Hall Health Tribunals and have spoken on behalf of URTO in opposition of the letter grading system. In case you weren’t aware, the system is completely flawed in New York. It was proven at the Tribunals, but unfortunately no changes have been made. This is another example of the greed of the Bloomberg Administration preying on hardworking business owners that create thousands of jobs for New Yorkers. As a bar and restaurant owner I will tell you that we are IN favor of a grading system, but the system that Commissioner Dr. Farley has in place is incapable of being fair to an owner and is a cash cow for the city of NY. It is for these among other reasons that we will have to pass on this Yelp sponsored event. I will continue to utilize Yelp as a great tool to connect and learn from our customers. I have attached my testimony to City Hall that I read at the Tribunal Hearings. Please feel free to forward this email as well as my letter to anyone in the Yelp organization that would be interested in hearing our perspective.I would like to make one last note that all of our venues have A gradings. ”In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock”
The recent changes in the grading system in New York, has caused thousands of restaurant owners to fear for their reputation that could cost them their business and lively hood. While I do agree that there has to be some type of system in place to determine the proper health code measures in restaurants and bars, the grading scale as it stands now is flawed in several categories.
- The inspections are arbitrary: I am involved in several venues within the 5 boroughs and I have witnessed completely different inspection procedures for each bar. In one scenario a venue can be inspected loosely within a few minutes. In another scenario an inspector can spend a few hours thoroughly investigating every last detail. On the contrary, I have witnessed inspections in 2 separate venues in roughly the same amount of time. However one venue is 800 square feet, and the other is 6000 square feet. How is it possible to conduct a fair and comparable inspection of two separate venues within the same time frame, if the venues are literally thousands of square feet different in size?
- Is there any documentation, studies, or proof that the grading scale has prevented customers or employees from getting sick? If so, where can we see these results? The violations that have been issued are making the city money, but are they making the consumers safer? I would feel much better if I knew the grading system was having an effect on the health of those that choose to dine at our fine establishments.
- There seems to be a degree of grey area where an inspector can make a judgement call within a venue. For example, the 5 conditions of Pest and Rodent citations can vary based on the interpretation of a particular inspector. In addition, if an inspector has a bad day, it is possible that his or her mood can affect the outcome of the inspection in a negative manner. This grey area as well as mood driven inspections gives the restaurant virtually no possibility of preparation and an unfair inspection process.The Bar and Restaurant industry is the heart and soul of tourism in New York City. Our tax dollars are being spent on agencies like the Department of Health, which is generating millions of dollars for the city, but doing so on the backs of honest and hardworking restaurant owners. The current inspection process is suffocating an industry that is a major player in fueling the economy. As more restaurants are being inspected, more fines are being issued, which leads to more restaurants closing that could have a trickle down effect that could devastate tourism and lead to local economic turmoil. Bars and Restaurants have always been the heart beat of New York City, but the current inspection process is choking the very industry that makes New York great. If that pulse fades, so will the restaurants, and eventually those that come to dine at them.