Grading system based on health inspections proposed for Baltimore City eateries

Baltimore - Pretty soon you could see the letters 'A', 'B' or 'C' displayed outside your favorite Baltimore eatery.  There's a push in City Hall to make diners more informed about where they grub.

"It's just to bring Baltimore in line with major cities and have a grading system for restaurants so the public knows what’s going on with our health inspections," said City Councilman Brandon Scott.

Scott introduced the legislation two years ago, but it's set to go to hearing before the Health Committee next Tuesday.  The proposed ordinance would create a letter grading system for the establishment's cleanliness.  The score would be determined by the Health Department and be displayed at the business as well as posted online.

"Baltimore is one of a few major cities that does not have this practice in place already,” said Scott.  "In New York after they implemented it they saw a big increase in restaurant revenue but also a decrease in food borne illness."

As written, the bill would give facilities that receive a grade lower than ‘A’ a week to fix problems.  The establishment will then be re-evaluated.  In Fells Point workers at Barcocina are behind the proposal.  They think the ratings are a great way to keep customers informed.

"Baltimore is thriving, we're growing, it's about time that we adopted the same kind of concepts as these other big cities,” said Assistant Bar Manager Chris Harlan.

But not every restaurant in the city agrees with the idea.  Some feel the proposed grading system could threaten their bottom line if diners don't understand the scores.

"Did they get a 'B' rating because there was dust on the bar, did they get a 'B' rating because there was dust on the books on a bookshelf that are just decorations," customer Lane Clements said.

He doesn't think restaurant grading is worthwhile.  City leaders argue the inspections are being done with taxpayer dollars, so the information should be at the taxpayer’s fingertips.

"You know what, I'm going to use my common sense, if I walk into the restaurant and it looks trashy and it looks gross then I’m not going to eat there," said Clements.

Scott started a petition on to drum up support for the bill.  Right now nearly 200 people have signed it saying they want the system to be implemented in the Charm City.

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