The Restaurant Inspector: Rising Grades, Fainting Owners

“New York’s inspectors have long been capable of showing up unannounced, recording violations and, if necessary, shutting down a kitchen. But in 2010, they acquired a new dimension of power: the ability to assign letter grades (printed on placards that must be visible from the street) and to post their findings in an online database where anyone can scrutinize a restaurant’s inspection history. Restaurateurs complained bitterly about the “scarlet letters,” and what they saw as punitive enforcement aimed at raising money for the city.

 

Eight years on, that furor has cooled. The number of restaurants with an A grade rose to 93 percent in April, from 81 percent in that first year. Yet many restaurateurs still feel aggrieved about the rating system; they talk of the health inspectors as arbitrary, unjust — and frightening enough to send an owner to the hospital with a panic attack.

As it turns out, the man in beige who precipitated that crisis is a pleasant, even-keeled individual named Fayick Suleman, who lives in the Bronx with his wife and two children, and — like the letter-grading system — is celebrating his eighth anniversary at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.”

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