Baltimore restaurants will likely soon have to tell you why they were closed down by the Health Department.
The City Council passed a bill on Monday requiring "public notice of suspensions, revocations and non-renewals" of their food vendor's license by the Health Department. The bill, sponsored by Councilman Brandon M. Scott of the 2nd District, moved through the City Council with unusual speed, going from second reader to passed in one night.
"It will bring more transparency" to the Health Department and the city's restaurant industry, Scott said, "making sure people know why they're closed."
In 2013 and 2014, Scott pushed a broader bill that would have required restaurants to post their grade rating by the Health Department, as is done in New York and other cities. He thought he had enough support to pass that bill, but a last-minute push by the restaurant association flipped some council votes, and the measure failed in March. The new bill, which the mayor is expected to sign, is a pared-down version of the old one. It does not impose the potential costs on restaurateurs that the earlier bill would have.
Under the bill, the Baltimore Health Department would have to update its list of restaurant suspensions weekly instead of monthly. The data is published on the department's website, where recent months can be downloaded as PDF files. Recently, five or six establishments have been temporarily closed in a given month, typically for lack of hot water or signs of rodent or insect infestation. Most re-opened within days.