Although not exactly widespread, the New York Post reports a dinner ruined by a health inspection is a growing nuisance for New Yorkers looking to enjoy a romantic meal or celebrate with friends, only to be shown the door.
The number of restaurant inspections by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has risen sharply in recent years. In 2002, there were 33,254 inspections. Last year, there were 98,176, according to figures from a report by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a mayoral candidate.
Earlier this month, Dan Stewart, a 33-year-old magazine editor, wanted to take a friend visiting from London to Brooklyn Star for a cocktail. When they walked into the Williamsburg eatery on a busy Thursday at about 8 p.m., an embarrassed server informed them that a health official had just come in and the restaurant was only serving soda and water — no food or booze.
According to restaurateurs, Mayor Bloomberg’s blue-coated buzzkills are increasingly invading city eateries during peak times, shutting down service for several hours and leaving diners hungry and businesses broke. (La Grenouille owner Charles Masson estimates he lost $30,000 in revenue due to inspections in a single night.)
Anything less than an “A” grade can mean thousands of dollars in fines and lost business. Restaurants aren’t required to stop serving customers during a health probe, but with so much on the line — and a strange person roaming about a busy kitchen — most do.
When confronted with such complaints, the Health Department continues to defend its practices.
“[Inspectors] do not stop food preparation or service during their inspection,” reads a Health Department statement sent to The Post. “Restaurants that earn A grades on initial inspections are inspected only once a year, limiting any inconvenience.”
Most New York restaurateurs, many of whom were too scared of the Health Department to go on the record, say it is essential to stop cooking to get through an inspection and avoid racking up too many violations.