- (Image courtesy New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene
Looks like it was a busy day for D.C. Councilmembers who wanted to dust off a few ideas that died on the vine in the last council session (remember Jim Graham's (D-Ward 1) plan to rename the 14th and Girard community park after President Obama? It's baaaaack!).
Also back is a proposal from Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) to institute a mandatory letter grade system for restaurant health inspections. This is the same kind of system that's been in place in Los Angeles for over a decade, and that New York City adopted this past summer: Restaurants must prominently post a letter grade in their front window that's tied to their health inspection score.
Cheh introduced this same bill two years ago, which never made it out of committee. But since then, the D.C. Dept. of Health has started posting its full health inspections online, which Cheh Chief of Staff David Zvenyach acknowledges was "in line with what we were doing." So why bring the letter grade bill back?
"We at least need to see whether or not it's practical," says Zvenyach.
As I noted over at DCist back in 2009, the letter grade concept is great in theory, but it really requires a robust inspections process to work well. Restaurants in Los Angeles that end up with anything lower than an 'A' grade quickly find themselves with a lot fewer customers, so the District would similarly need to guarantee business owners a fair chance of coming back into compliance within a relatively short period of time. If the city stuck a restaurant with a 'B' or 'C' and then didn't re-inspect for six months or a year or even longer (as is often the case now), that eatery could very well be put out of business before they got a chance to improve their grade.