January 23, 2013 at 15:46 PM EST
Council mulls changes to restaurant letter grades
The New York City Council may soon introduce legislation to modify the restaurant letter grading system that was adopted here nearly three years ago. The Council held hearings last March on the grading system, which assigns an A, B, C or grade pending to eateries, rating their cleanliness and adherence to the City's Department of Health's regulations—and it is likely to introduce legislation that incorporates restaurant owners' criticism of the system. Changes may focus on requiring additional training for Health Department inspectors, said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, D-Manhattan. Any action can't come soon enough for the restaurant industry, which largely opposes the letter grades. Last week, Yelp announced plans to post the grades along side its restaurant reviews in New York. The website has already begun doing so in San Francisco. In a letter sent Wednesday to Yelp's CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a trade group that represents restaurants and others, asked Mr. Stoppelman to delay posting the grades in New York until "reforms are passed by the City Council." Ms. Brewer, who co-chaired the hearings, also fired off a letter to the executive asking for him to "refrain" from posting the grades for the "time being." A spokesman for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn declined to comment for this story. She said a series of legislative initiatives, resulting from the hearing, will soon be introduced. The protests are unlikely to sway the San Francisco-based company, which is working with the city governments of San Francisco and New York to upload restaurant data to Yelp's database. "Increasing the transparency and accessibility of important public information is another example of how San Francisco, New York and other municipalities are leading the charge in bettering citizens lives by fostering innovation," said Mr. Stoppelman in a statement. A spokeswoman from the city's Department of Health said, "We're pleased that Yelp is making our grades available to even more consumers via their Web site, and encourage other companies to use our data by visiting NYC's open data site." More web sites are likely to follow suit. Tim Zagat, co-founder of Zagat Survey, said he supports Yelp's decision to post letter grades and is considering doing the same with his company's restaurant reviews. Though, he said he would only do so if the data accurately reflects the most current grade. "It would be unfair to show a restaurant as an A and it really got a C or the other way around," he said.
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