Colorado Might Swap Restaurant Grades For Higher Inspection Fees

With restaurants in some of its largest counties going two years between inspections due to a lack of trained inspectors, Colorado is looking at new ways to pay for ensuring clean, food-safe kitchens.

A 14-page bill in the state’s General Assembly would increase the fees used to hire restaurant inspectors, a boon to the coffers of county and district health departments.

The Colorado Restaurant Association supports the higher fees, but with the caveat that the new law would prevent local governments from using grading systems reliant on “a letter, number, or symbol grading system, or similar oversimplified method of quantifying results.”

The association’s website calls a health inspection “a one-hour slice of time meant to help restaurant operators learn from the health department where they may be able to make improvements to their practices. Applying a ‘score’ or a ‘grade’ to this inspection does nothing to improve regulatory compliance by the establishment and can be dangerously misleading to the public.”

The bill also reduces the duration of time a restaurant’s license can be suspended to one month, from the current six months. Annual license and inspection fees are increased under the bill, which would be the first bump in seven years. The funds cannot be spent on anything other than retail food health-related activities.

Several fee schedules are included in the bill, e.g., a restaurant with a seating capacity of 101-200 would see annual fees increase to $430 a year, from the current $285.

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