At the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Broadway and 111th steet, customers crowd the entrance way as they stroll past the big green B rating in the window.
SOUND: Fade in sound of coffee shop with woman asking about sugar, fade under.
Manager Wendy Binioris’s son owns the shop. She says the rating system is inconsistent.
BINIORIS 1 (:09): It’s always a different inspector, never the same one who gets to know you and what your business is. And it becomes very arbitrary that way.
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Binioris says the rating reflects a moment in time. If one inspector sees something minor during a rush, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way the restaurant usually operates.
BINORIS 2 (:13): They have to know, oh well you’re in the middle of a rush of 40 tourists on top of a full restaurant inside and outside. And you have three bakers in the kitchen working with flour and there will be flour on the floor because we’re making the dough.
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And Binioris isn’t the only one complaining. On Wednesday restaurant owners and city council members testified against the grading system, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
QUINN 1 (:07): I really think there are inconsistencies in this system that we can fix to make it fairer and make it better.
Fairness isn’t the only problem says attorney Robert Bookman who represents hundreds of restaurants. He says that the system hurts those who have B and C ratings as well as those with As.
BOOKMAN 1 (:17): They are spending a huge amount of money hiring generally ex-health department inspectors as consultants to try and walk them through this complicated 1300 point system, preparing for the test.
Bookman says customers don’t know whether a B rating represents major violations or minor infractions. A minor thing would be flour falling from the counter at the Hungarian Pastry Shop during rush hour. Bookman says a major violation is having food above or below required temperature.
BOOKMAN 2 (:16) : If that’s your only violation, you still have an A. You can have another restaurant that has four or five minor violations, like a leaky faucet. Yet that person can get a B based on the adding up of a number of points in New York. The A restaurant was less safe that day than the B restaurant was.
Wendy Binioris at the Hungarian Pastry Shop says fines have been going up for years and she always factor them into the restaurant’s bottom line. She says that her shop is doing well overall and doesn’t think her B rating has hurt it.
SOUND PASTRY SHOP 2 (:04) : People chatting, up and under
Near the door, Jerry Dinken sits with a group of regulars. They say they’ve been coming here for around 7 years to talk politics. Dinken says he loves the pastry shop regardless of the rating.
DINKEN 1 (:02) If it was an F we’d still come here.
While Binioris says that she’d rather go back to the pass-fail system, she’d be satisfied with reforms to make the process more consistent and clearer. Says she’ll keep making the same cakes for loyal customers, no matter what.
Andrew Parsons, Columbia Radio News
SOUND PASTRY SHOP 3 (:04) : Coffee shop chatter, fade out