The City Council narrowly rejected a bill tonight that would have mandated the posting of health inspection grades in restaurants. The bill needed eight votes from the council, but it received only seven. Six members voted against, Councilman William "Pete" Welch (9th District) voted "pass," and one, Warren Branch (13th District), was absent.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Councilman Brandon Scott (2nd District) said after the vote. "This is in place in every city in America except Baltimore." Scott had spent two years trying to get the bill through the council's committee, amending it multiple times with input from the restaurant association, he said. "This is an embarrassment for Baltimore. Right now the only way Baltimore citizens know when a restaurant fails its inspection is if they follow Brandon Scott on the internet."
Last week Scott petitioned the bill out of the committee from the City Council floor. It passed easily there. But in the week since then three councilmembers changed their votes—Eric Costello (11th District), James Kraft (1st District), and Welch, whose failure to vote affirmatively killed the bill. Just before it failed, Costello offered an amendment that would have guaranteed any restaurant that did not like its grade a re-inspection within two weeks, for a $200 fee. The amendment also failed narrowly.
Voting yes on the original bill were Scott, Councilmen Robert Curran (3rd District), Sharon Green Middleton (6th District), Nick Mosby (7th District), Bill Henry (4th District), Rochelle "Rikki" Spector (5th District), and Mary Pat Clarke (14th District).
Chef Casey Jenkins of the Darker than Blue restaurant on Greenmount Avenue slowly clapped when the bill failed. Later he told TV reporters that he was concerned about the potential cost of the proposed measure. He said he was not afraid of health inspections, and that Councilman Scott had even toured his kitchen and found it "spotless."
"Very true," said Scott, standing steps away awaiting his turn before the news scrum.
"I'm more than happy to let any customer walk through my kitchen," said Jenkins, but "we have to find a way to bring small business back to Baltimore."