Do restaurants need inspection grades?

BALTIMORE - You try to figure out whether a restaurant is safe and clean based on the way it looks.  But would you feel better if the places you choose for dinner had to post a letter grade so you could be sure? That's what members of Baltimore's City Council are trying to figure out.

The public got a chance to weigh in Wednesday on a bill that would require city restaurants to post their inspection grades.  The measure, proposed by City Councilman Brandon Scott, was the subject of a Health Committee hearing, in which public comment was taken.  Restaurant industry representatives and the city Health Department also took part in the hearing.

Scott says the bill, which would also require that inspections be posted online, has received widespread public support.  However, restaurant owners and industry insiders feel it could be problematic and have tangible impact on their profits, with customers potentially turning away from grades they may not fully understand. 

Scott says only one of the more than 100 city residents he has spoken with does not support the idea, "They feel like this is something the city should have done a long time ago and I actually had a bunch say, 'We don't do that already?'  They were embarrassed that Baltimore was one of the only major cities where you can't go online and see inspection results for restaurants or walk into a restaurant and see the grade or some kind of rating."

The bill will go to work session so implementation can be discussed.  No dates for further council review of the measure have been set.

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