Public Health

NYC's Grease Trap Gestapo Now Friendlier and More Accessible

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sausage scarf not permitted by food safety regs

New York City is quietly streamlining the permitting process for opening a new restaurant. In the bad old days:

A new restaurant may have to contend with as many as 11 city agencies, often with conflicting requirements; secure 30 permits, registrations, licenses and certificates; and pass 23 inspections. And it will still have to go to the state for a liquor license.

And then, miraculously, someone had this realization:

"We still need to make sure the grease trap is in the right place and that the street cafe doesn't encroach on pedestrians," [Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor for operations,] said. "But it has to be our responsibility to bring those together at a single point of entry."

Whether or not you think the city government really does need to concern itself with grease trap placement and refrigerator light bulb sheathing, the notion that it is the responsibility to government to make itself comprehensible and accessible to citizens is a pleasingly radical one in the world of government licensing.

Because we're talking about New York City government here, they couldn't quite bring themselves to actually simplify the rules. Instead, they created a dedicated team of people—the New Business Acceleration Team—to bring all the existing B.S. under one roof. And even that half-measure seems to be paying off for eaters and entrepreneurs:

The acceleration team…has helped open about 200 restaurants. On average, the restaurants opened 10 weeks faster than they had planned. Mario Batali's sprawling emporium Eataly opened 15 weeks earlier than it normally would have.

To take these lessons beyond the world of New York restaurants Bloomberg will soon shut down for excessive salt content, check out our 2006 feature on What Detroit Can Learn from Bangalore.