City Desk

Restaurant Cleanliness Grades Coming to D.C.?

Los Angeles has 'em. So does St. Louis, San Francisco, and the whole state of North Carolina.

Is the District next?

LL is talking letter grades here, specifically as applied to the cleanliness of restaurants, markets, taverns, and other establishments slinging comestibles. Anyone who's been to L.A. has seen a big block "A," "B," or even "C" posted prominently outside all food-serving establishments. (You don't stay open with anything less than that.) The thinking goes that the public scrutiny forces restaurants to aim for a level of sanitation beyond the bare minimum.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh says she's introducing a bill at tomorrow's legislative meeting that would implement an L.A.-style system here. In a press release, Cheh points to a "definitive study" that "13.1 percent decrease in the number of foodborne-disease hospitalizations in Los Angeles County in the year following the implementation of the program."

So is this a valuable consumer protection measure or creeping nannyism at a time when restaurateurs are facing economic hardship?

Orange County, Calif., recently decided it was the latter, and rejected a letter-grade system. Don't expect a warm reception from local restaurant owners—LL will update with any official reaction he can muster.

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  • sara.h

    i saw this in Charleston, SC. Very interesting.

  • Adams Morgan

    Oh lord, I can just hear the businesses complaining now...

  • Fred

    YES! And publish the results in the newspaper! This might help get the rats under control.


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  • Denise

    Does anyone remember the old Chick-In-Bucket restaurant in Cleveland Park? My husband used to take me there on dates and it was great - a litle hole in the wall, tiny restaurant and we would sit in the window and eat. The reason I mention it is b/c it used to get closed down periodically by the health dept. for "kitchen critters". While that is important, right after they reopened, it was never as good as it was once they had been open a while again. I hate to say it, but the "critters" seemed to add that extra something to the fried chicken they served. :)

    I agree that we need a cleanliness report published periodically in the newspaper so we know what's going on, but I sure do miss Chick-In-Bucket and their extra something.

  • Gev

    Interesting and informative's fun to see other big/metro cities exploring the topic...very curious to see where it will end up...just wanted to offer a wee insight to enhance the accuracy and perhaps even shed light on the topic...I was a Public Health Officer for 7 years with LA County Health, and had countless valuable experiences grading regards to "Anyone who’s been to L.A. has seen a big block “A,” “B,” or even “C” posted prominently outside all food-serving establishments. (You don’t stay open with anything less than that.)"...the letter grade in LA is determined via a simple point deduction method, just like it was for us in grade school, where everyone starts with 100% and loses points per incorrect answer/violation...closing a restaurant is based on other established criteria, which are not directly based on the grade itself, but rather on a handful of conditions which are considered imminent threats to public health/sanitary operation, and these specific conditions are independent grounds for suspension of an eatery's license to operate (closure)...therefore, it is not uncommon to have MANY restaurants with grades well below 70% ("C") which legally remain open, as well as many scoring an "A" being closed temporarily until the offending/closure qualifying violation is corrected...just wanted to chime in on that cranny in case it is of interest...good luck in accomplishing the core intention with this pursuit, D.C...Cheers!

  • Lloyd

    Good grief Charlie Brown, this ratineg system is as old as the hills. Back in the 50's and 60's everyone had it. DC did Pgh.PA did. I was traveling extensively at the time and I can't remember not looking for it and not seeing it every where.

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