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A burgeoning number of restaurants are failing inspections amid stricter rules following the implementation of the city health department’s letter-grade system last July.
City inspectors closed down 1,504 eateries during the fiscal year ending June 30 – up from 1,282 the year before, reports the Daily News.
The number of closings marks an increase of 17 percent over the previous fiscal year. Annual fines also skyrocketed to $42.3 million – up about $10 million -- over that time.
Under the new system, restaurants unsatisfied with their grades may appeal. Inspectors then return within about a month to complete another assessment. In some cases, those follow-up inspections may result in an increase in fines or even temporary closure of the facility.
Mice sightings near food, dirty floors and food left out in the open topped the list of inspection violations, according to the News. For example, the number of mice-related violations hit 18,384 last year, up from 13,657 – or a 35 percent increase over – the year before.
Many restaurant owners lambasted the health department for eating into their profits with what they perceived to be excessive fines and unnecessary closures.
The health department said that it did expect an increase in fines when it enacted the new rules, but that it believed restaurant cleanliness had steadily improved since then.
An agency spokesman also said that while some restaurants were shut down, they typically reopened within a few days.
“The agency actually anticipated an increase [in fines], because poorer-performing restaurants are now being inspected more quickly,” Health Department spokesman John Kelly told the News. “However, since the inception of the restaurant grading program, restaurants are improving, cycle to cycle.”