It sounds like there's some heat between some local restaurateurs and the Denver Department of Environmental Health. The Denver Post reports that some (anonymous) restaurant folks think fines have gotten a little excessive and arbitrary. Examples include not being able to wear a wrist watch on the job and having an empty paper towel dispenser near a hand sink. While some think the fines are bogus, Bob McDonald, a director at the department, says it all comes down to some misunderstandings.
"There are a lot of misunderstandings about what our policies are. One of the most common is that we're assessing fines for violations that are not similar. If there's a critical violation, inspectors do not have the discretion to not write it up — that's the law. It wouldn't be much of an enforcement without a write-up. We give them a warning, then $250 for a critical violation. Are we fining more? Yes. That was the agreement."
Restaurants are currently issued a verbal warning for first critical violation, followed by a $250 fine for second strike and $500 for a third offense. Apparently you can be fined up to $2,000 within a 12-month period if you don't get your act together. Restaurant lobbiest will have the opportunity to duke it out with the Denver Department of Environmental Health tomorrow during a town hall meeting the Colorado Restaurant Association.
El Paso County Health Inspector [Photo: Helen H. Richardson/DP]