In a fascinating story in this morning's NY Times the paper reports on the saga of the chef/owner of the prestigious Brasserie La Cote Basque. As part of the Department of Health blitzkrieg the restaurant was shut down on March the 8th and, because chef Jean-Jacques Rachou has remained bitter and despondent, the place remains shuttered and its 40 employees are out of work. The eatery is also losing an estimated $100,000 a week in sales.
Ah yes, but the city's health is protected, isn't it? What a Croque! What we have is the normal venal intrusion of the city, bumped on the steroid injection of wounded pride, and resulting in an incredible loss of economic activity to the city. That is because this elite eatery is only one of hundreds of less swanky places that have withered, and lost business, under the assault of the DOH over the past few months-restaurants that the Times is less likely to take notice of.
One thing that struck us in the piece, nicely done by Eric Konigsberg, was the depiction of the department's point system, a protocol that has been developed to rack up the revenue stream for this out-of-control agency. As the Times points out, the restaurant had been cited for 13 health code violations; "Many of them were minor-'Choking first aid poster not conspicuously displayed in dining area,' for example, and some cutting boards were noted to be 'badly worn'-but they added up to 80 points." 28 points is failing.
In a climate of hysteria, the points system is a license to abuse the restaurants in the city. Under normal conditions it is used to extort money for the bureaucratic behemoth down at Worth Street. Under the current climatee of fear, it is a terrorist outfit. The entire enterprise, supposedly geared for the protection of health, is operating to make this city an unhealthier place to do business in.
In fact, with the upcoming calorie labeling and trans fat ban, this unhealthy climate is exacerbated, making the Blomberg administration the worst administration for small businesses in this city for at least the thirty years we have been observing the political scene here. The upcoming proposal to tax delivery trucks coming into the CBD only highlights this abysmal record even more. Here's hoping that the upcoming crop of mayoral candidates exhibit a greater sensitivity to enhancing the productivity of this vital business sector.