Health Department Fining NYC Restaurants Who Don't Display, Obscure Required Letter Grades

The city's Health Department is cracking down on restaurants that don't properly display their letter grades, The New York Times reports.

During a sweep last month, the department handed out 704 violations to restaurants that hadn't posted the 8.5" x 11" placards, and 100 more to restaurants that hadn’t put them in a "clearly visible place"--defined by the Health Department as within five feet of the entrance and four to six feet off the ground.

Last July, Mayor Bloomberg introduced the A-B-C grading system to rate the cleanliness of city eateries and bars. Since then, of the city's 24,000 food and beverage businesses, over 15,000 have been inspected and of those, over half have received A grades.

Unsurprisingly, it's the restaurants that get B's and C's that tend to hide their grades from customers.

"My windows are taken up with more important signs," a manager at SPQR in Little Italy told The New York Post , who said he wasn't hiding his bad grade for fear of scaring off business. "People know it's good here." SPQR's C grade is buried beneath Zagat ratings in the far corner of a long window, near the ground and behind a table.

Andaz 5th Avenue, a posh hotel and restaurant, racked up 55 violation points in March for "filth flies" in the kitchen and unclean practices by the kitchen staff, among other problems.

The restaurant is appealing the bad grade, a hostess told the Post, but meanwhile, Andaz displayed no placard last week--even though when appealing grades, restaurants are required to post a "Grade Pending" sign.

During inspections, food establishments are given points for poor cleanliness or food-safety practices, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the lower the score, the better the grade. Restaurants that don't get an A on the first inspection are inspected again a few weeks later. And after the second inspection they must either post their letter grade or appeal the grade to a tribunal.

Restaurants busted for grade-posting violations will be fined up to $1,000, with repeat violations incurring even higher fines.