Today, the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s Andrew Rigie and Robert Bookman testified at a City Council hearing in favor of legislation we’ve advocated for.
If enacted into law will reduce fines and create cure periods and warnings for a long list of violations issued to small businesses, while refunding certain civil penalties issued to them during the pandemic.
While we commend Mayor de Blasio’s administration for their efforts to reduce fines for small businesses during his tenure, much more needs to be done, and now is the time to seize the moment. Historically, the City of New York treated restaurants like its personal ATM with fines and fees. With this proposed legislation, the Mayor and City Council have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the way the city regulates small businesses by focusing on education and compliance first, instead of punitive fines and fees.
This comprehensive punitive penalty reform is what The Alliance has advocated for years - amending and repealing unnecessary and inappropriate violations and mandates that have burdened the restaurant and nightlife community. The goal should be to reduce fines, increase education and compliance, and provide a cure or warning before a fine is levied for any violations that does not pose an imminent hazard to the public and workers.
In fact, throughout the pandemic, city agencies have focused on educating businesses about compliance before imposing fines and it has worked, and greater compliance can be achieved through education instead of harsh fines.
By reducing fines and providing cure periods and warnings for violations, the city will also change what has often been described as a tense relationship between their inspectors and small business owners. Inspectors may feel that if they focus on education, and don’t issue fines which generate revenue for the city, it will appear as if they aren’t doing their jobs. Small business owners feel that when an inspector arrives, the inspector’s only job is to levy violations and fines. By reducing fines and providing cure periods and warnings for violations, the focus of inspections can be more educational, collaborative and compliance oriented.
While we strongly support this legislation (T2021-7182 and T2021-7181), many more violations need to be added to the list of reduced penalties, especially violations issued by the NYC Health Department and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. The Alliance will work with the city to ensure they are included.
We’ll keep you updated on this legislation as it advances. The NYC Hospitality Alliance thanks Speaker Johnson, Councilmembers Mark Gjonaj and Vanessa Gibson, for their leadership and support with this legislation.