2012-05-23 / Features

Simotas Hosts Seminar To Help Local Restaurant Owners


Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and state Senator Michael Gianaris at the “Understanding the New Health Code: A Restaurant Seminar” at Vino di Vino in Astoria. Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and state Senator Michael Gianaris at the “Understanding the New Health Code: A Restaurant Seminar” at Vino di Vino in Astoria. On May 17, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas hosted local restaurant owners and managers at the “Understanding the New Health Code: A Restaurant Seminar” at Vino di Vino in Astoria.

The event was attended by members of the local business community as well as state Senator Michael Gianaris.

Simotas introduced the speakers by explaining her experiences working at her parents’ delicatessen throughout her early life.

“As the daughter of small business owners, I understand first hand that supporting these businesses is the key to our future economic success of our state,” Simotas said. The presentation was delivered by restaurant health code consultants Romel Balchan and Dr. Brooke Balchan of City Food Inspections, Bureau of Food Safety and Community Sanitation Executive Director Beth Torin and Supervisor at the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Clifford Montesir.

“Western Queens is a vibrant neighborhood with diverse and exciting restaurants, many of them small and family-owned,” Simotas said. “Nothing is more important to small business owners without the resources to hire consultants and attorneys than transparency in the process of New York City’s Restaurant Grading System. This seminar is an opportunity for local business owners to learn from different perspectives about the in and outs of the restaurant grading system, and get answers to their questions about inspections and violations.”

Gianaris said, “Government should facilitate the success of responsible businesses rather than hinder them. The city’s health code is an important tool to determine restaurants’ level of hygiene, food handling and vermin control, but enforcement of the code has become arbitrary and unnecessarily punitive. I applaud Assemblymember Simotas for organizing today’s seminar, which is a good way for business owners to better understand how the health code works and what they should do to ensure their establishments are in the best possible position to receive the highest grade.”

Simotas has introduced legislation requiring state, city and local regulatory bodies that set and enforce health standards for eating establishments to provide the establishments with written notice of any new rules that apply to them. The bill would also provide the businesses with a 60-day window after notice is given to adjust to the new regulations before they can be enforced.

“If we’re going to dig our state out of the fiscal mess it currently faces, small businesses will have to lead the way,” she continued. “For them to do that, we need to create a regulatory environment that protects the public’s interests while allowing small businesses to thrive, create jobs, and propel New York into a better and brighter future.”

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