Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded the city's health department Tuesday for what he called "improvements" in restaurant safety since the city began giving eateries letter grades in 2010.
Nearly three-quarters of restaurants have an "A" grade in their window, a small increase from a year ago, health statistics show, and salmonella cases have fallen to a 20-year low. Bloomberg said restaurants are also earning nearly 10% more now than when the first grades were doled out.
"Restaurant grades have been good for public health and good for the economy," Bloomberg said Tuesday.
His comments come a day before the City Council hearing this morning that will address concerns by eateries about the health inspections and grading system.
Restaurant advocates have shunned the system, saying it uses "excessive fines."
"If you define success as taxing small business owners and making their lives miserable, then letter grades have been a complete success," said Andrew Rigie of the New York State Restaurant Association.
James DiPasquale, a lawyer who solely represents restaurant and bar owners, contested Bloomberg's statistics showing the grades are good for the economy.
"I'd be shocked to see whether my client's revenues are going up," said DiPasquale. "The vast majority of them would say that quite the opposite is going on."
"My clients are paying far more now for these fines than they've ever had to in the past," he added.