City's Decision to Eat Fines at Grade-A Restaurants Applauded by Group

The city's decision to eliminate fines for restaurants that receive an "A" grade by the health department upon initial inspection or re-inspection was applauded by a restaurant group Thursday.

The New York State Restaurant Association praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg for saying in his State of the City address on Wednesday that fines for violations will be eliminated for restaurants that receive an "A" upon initial inspection or re-inspection.

"We think this is a very positive symbol from the Bloomberg Administration and the Health Department that they are serious about continuing to work with the Restaurant Association and the restaurant industry at large to really eliminate or reduce unnecessary financial and regulatory burdens," Andrew Rigie, director of operations with the New York State Restaurant Association, said.

Rigie said there are still some changes to the system he'd like to see. "We feel and are confident that the health department will hear these concerns and provide more educational inspections, so people understand what a violation is, why it is a violation, and the proper way to correct it, rather than just being issued a violation and paying a fine," he said.

Rigie would also like to see an expansion of the city's Business Acceleration Team. During his state of the state address, Bloomberg said the initiative has helped more than 200 restaurants open their doors in the past year. Rigie said he's hopeful the city will build on the program, "so restaurants can get open quicker, they can get their problems solved quicker, and it's a cooperative effort so the restaurant industry can continue to grow, continue to expand, and put more people on the payroll and serve delicious meals."

During the State of the City on Wednesday, Bloomberg's line about restaurant grading drew enthusiastic applause from the audience at the St. George's Theater on Staten Island.

"Any restaurant that earns an 'A' either on its initial inspection or its re-inspection will not have to pay one penny in fines for any violations found on that inspection," he said. "Not one penny."