Eatery grades out in the open

New law requires Albany County restaurants to post health inspection results

— Picture this. It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday night and you’re starving. You walk through the door of your favorite restaurant, expecting to eat a hygienically prepared meal in a clean dining room. But do you know how the restaurant scored on its most recent health inspection? Are you about to dine in an “excellent” restaurant or a “fair” restaurant?

Now, you’ll know it all.

A new Albany County law that went into effect July 1 requires the more than 1,300 restaurants in the county to post health inspection reports in plain view under a Food Service Establishment Rating System (FSERS). Spearheaded by County Legislator Chris Higgins, the amendment to the Albany County Sanitary Code is an effort to squeeze out the best service from area restaurants while educating the public.

“I consider myself to be a huge consumer advocate and this is a great piece of legislation to help consumers make more educated decisions when they go out to eat,” said Higgins, who is also a 109th Assembly district candidate.

Previously, restaurants either passed or failed health inspections by the county Health Department. Now, a rating system modeled after the one used in New York City gives out grades of excellent, good, fair or unsatisfactory.

Don’t expect to see the notices plastered on windows right away, though. To prevent placing a financial burden on the county, the new rating system will be rolled out gradually.

“We anticipate having about half of all restaurants in the county inspected by the end of this year and 100 percent compliance by this time next year,” said Mary Rozak, director of communications for Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.

Restaurants that fail to clearly display the inspection results are subject to a $100 fine.

Because of the soft launch, the county doesn’t yet have a ratings breakdown to see how restaurants are fairing with the new system.

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