March 17, 2017

No letter grades, but restaurant health reviews to be more accessible

Grant Welker
Grant Welker
Worcester City Hall. The city doesn't plan to add graded restaurant reviews but will soon make inspections more accessible to the public.

Worcester has had a growing and well-regarded restaurant scene, but restaurants don't have placards in the window showing how they've done on health inspections as is done in New York City and some places in Boston.

Placards like those aren't likely to come to Worcester. But reports on how well restaurants fare on health inspections will become more accessible to the public, City Manager Edward Augustus said in a meeting last week. When a new city website launches, due for June, it'll include such reports, he said.

Restaurateurs Augustus said he talked to were "adamantly opposed" to what they called an objective rating system. He said he agreed.

City Councilor Konstantina Lukes said she sees the lack of accountability on health inspections as an oversight.

"If we're going to brag about our restaurant scene, we ought to assure the public and incentivize the owners of the restaurants and food service establishments that were also going to promote food safety practices," she said last week in pushing on the council chamber floor for an easy way for patrons to know the cleanliness level of the restaurants where they eat.

"Unfortunately," she added of restaurants' cleanliness, "we can't assume that bragging right."

City Councilor Morris Bergman said he was worried -- thinking as an attorney -- about reports that might be inaccurate ruining a restaurant's good name. He called the proposal "riddled with the potential of unintended consequences."

"I just think we're putting in play more red tape than the public is asking for," he said.

For now, health inspection reports aren't available online but are on record at the city's Inspectional Services office.

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