Local restaurants weigh in on public grades

By Jeff Labine

Some Thunder Bay restaurants are welcoming the idea of putting health unit grades up on display.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit wants to change the current bylaws to force the roughly 850 food operators in the city to display colour-coded letter grades, which would show how well they did on regular health inspections. This change would impact any licensed food operators, including restaurants, food trucks and convenience stores. The idea is to improve transparency with the public as well as making the health inspection reports more easily accessible.
City council earlier this week supported the change but still requires ratification before being implemented.
Food operators will be give time to go over their education package in order to see how they will be scored, how to correct certain problems and how to display the grades.
Tom Pazianos, co-owner of the Keg and Caribou restaurants, wasn’t worried about the possible change coming. He said the restaurants strive to maintain high standards and the health unit is always welcomed.
“We are very proud with what we do at the restaurant,” he said on Wednesday.
“Whenever the health unit comes in, we are more than willing to help them. Any issues that do come up only helps us. Sometimes it opens your eyes. It makes sure that everything is where it should be. I think (inspections) should be transparent. People could also check online. That would be a way to do it also.”
During Monday’s council meeting, a spokesman for the health unit explained that they are taking steps to provide an online option for diners to view.
At that same meeting, one city councillor mentioned the letter grades would also help stop the spreading of rumours about a particular establishment.
Mike Belisle, owner of Hambo Barbecupid food truck, agreed and believes the public grading system is fair.
“To me the difference between an A or a C is very minuscule, if you know the health unit standards,” he said. “But obviously everyone is going to keep their standards as high as they can with the letter grades being posted. I know they have been doing it in cities like Toronto and Vancouver since forever and it seems to help people figure out where they want to eat.”
He added that he didn’t think displaying the grades will change much as many eateries in Thunder Bay already keep a high standard.

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