The installment of letter grades on restaurant windows and doors recently has created confusion, even though the ordinance responsible for this was adopted and in effect in June 2011, with an 8-0 vote from City Council.
Restaurants, already requiring inspection, now must display the outcome of these routine checks. The grades are large, on letter-sized paper. Those who attempt to camouflage, deface, or remove the letter grade could have their license suspended or revoked.
Restaurants that receive a grade lower than a ‘B’ (80%) have nothing to display within five feet of the front door or on the drive-thru menu at establishments to which that applies. They would be reinspected after a set amount of time, and the letter grade for the subsequent visit would be assigned, if they pass. If not, they must deal with a failed health inspection as before this ordinance passed, with the only difference being that the public knows something is amiss by the lack of grade affixed to the front entrance.
Not all food vendors must display letter grades. The ordinance explains:
"This section shall not apply to mobile or itinerant food vending units, temporary food establishments, food establishments operated in or by primary and secondary schools, hospital-operated cafeterias, licensed seasonal vendors, farmers markets, correctional facilities, or charitable organizations, including soup kitchens and other prepared food distribution programs, nor to food service establishments operated by not for profit membership organizatons for service to their members only."
Besides these exemptions, there are some exceptions for the requirement that the grade be displayed within five feet of the front door. For food courts, like the one in State House Square or in El Mercado, each vendor still needs to display its grade, but it can be in any number of places: menu, counter, in the “initial patron contact area,” or in another location deemed acceptable by the Director of Health and Human Services.
If potential patrons want to know more about why the restaurant received the grade it did, the restaurant must make the Inspection Report available to the public; this report has to be kept at the establishment.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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