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NYC restaurants accuse health inspectors of lapsing into a gotcha mindset

An association of New York City restaurants, bars and hotels has called on the City Council to rethink proposed regulatory changes that could subject operators to fines for such minor lapses as poor penmanship on safety-related documents.

The New York Hospitality Alliance said it would testify at a public hearing today that the city is retreating from the collaborative spirit that had marked relations between health inspectors and restaurants, increasing small businesses’ expenses without raising safety. Proposed rewrites in inspection regulations include “vague new language such as ‘potential,’ ‘routinely’ and ‘legibly’ that make it easier for the city to issue more fines,” said Andrew Rigie, the Alliance’s executive director.

He called on the Council and City Hall to continue granting a grace period to restaurants with minor safety infractions so they can fix the problem without financial penalty. He also reminded both bodies that Mayor Bill De Blasio had promised more of that cooperation to help the city’s small businesses.

"We do not want to go back to the bad old days,” Rigie said in a statement. “This mayor has promised that his agencies will not treat small businesses like ATM machines. Well, the Health Department did not get the message."

City Hall has not publicly responded to the accusations and suggestions.

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