Of all the crazy news reports and columns about last week’s Department of Health kerfluffle at Per Se, Steve Cuozzo at the New York Post delivers the best takedown of all — calling the violations “criminally ludicrous.”
And while we know we definitely give a slight pause when we’re about to enter a B-graded restaurant in our city, Cuozzo reassures us that B-grades aren’t always what they seem. As Cuzzo explained, it’s all about the money:
… the inspection fraud mushroomed under [Mayor] Bloomberg into a municipal ATM, reeling in $45 million in fines in a single year… But the system is anything but fair — while Per Se can laugh off the $5,000 it might pay to have its “Grade Pending” restored to an “A,” it’s another story for tiny, mom-and-pop eateries whose owners sweat every penny, but whom the city shakes down for the exact same cost as the big guys.
Fair point. And while Per Se is appealing the violations with the help of “sanitation consultants,” not every restaurant can afford the kind of legal fight it takes to get those grades overturned.
And Cuozzo consults actual chef friends — though only one that would use his real name in the article — to get their take, and everyone agrees that the health inspections are absurd.
A prominent Manhattan chef/owner with no axe to grind, having never been stigmatized by DOH, states: “The inspectors, uneducated, follow the [department’s] book in black-and-white terms without common sense. In that book, cold food is ice cold, hot means very hot. There’s not a restaurant worth its soul that could pass that test.”
And yet, the DOH fights on, dragging everyone down with them. But as Cuozzo rightfully points out, the city’s DOH inspectors outweigh building inspectors (although those facts should be confirmed before he floats out actual numbers), and that has led to deadly consequences. “While we read about fatal wall collapses, construction accidents and elevator mishaps, the last time I checked, no one has yet been killed by defective meat loaf,” Cuozzo writes.
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