Dallas Debates Restaurant Inspection Measure

Final vote expected in October

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Dallas City Council committee agreed Monday to hire even more restaurant inspections after an NBC 5 Investigates report showed some restaurants had gone years between inspections. City leaders also gave a green light to a plan that could impact every restaurant in Dallas.

    The city of Dallas is one step closer to a new measure designed to clean up restaurant kitchens.

    An NBC 5 investigation in February found hundreds of restaurants had gone more than two years without a health inspection.

    At a meeting Monday, the City Council's Quality of Life Committee was briefed on what the city has done since NBC 5 uncovered the breakdown in restaurant inspections.

    "They've been working for a long time -- you have to give them a little latitude to kind of close that gap," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said. "I think they put the right program in place and hired the people."

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    Dallas is debating sweeping changes in the wake of an NBC 5 investigation into restaurant inspections that found kitchens that had not been checked in years. A plan to require a training course for every restaurant worker in the city is among the ideas.

    At the meeting, staff reported that the city has already hired six new restaurant inspectors. The committee approved the hiring of five more in the next fiscal year.

    NBC 5's investigation found that the city's inspection budget -- and the number of inspectors -- had been slashed in half, which was one reason why so many restaurant kitchens were not being checked.

    Council members on Monday also authorized staff to start writing a measure that would require every restaurant worker in Dallas to take a food-safety course.

    "What we're saying is to take it one step further. Don't wait for the violation; do what other cities in Texas are doing, where you require everybody to take the training beforehand, so now it's not just on one person to be watching everybody," Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata said. "It's so that everybody has gone through the training and, hopefully, we will see fewer violations whenever we go in for our twice-a-year inspections."

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    But first, the city wants to get the support of Dallas restaurant owners.

    Mark Maguire, of Maguire's Restaurant and Catering, said he worries about the cost and time of mandatory training.

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    "It is a hassle, yeah sure," he said. "If you're certified by the city of Plano, is the city of Dallas going to recognize that or are you going to now have to go get a another certification and pay another certification fee?"

    The city said it would address the concerns. It said it wants to make the food-safety training program affordable and allow restaurant workers to take their certification with them from job to job.

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    Dallas restaurants are supposed to be inspected twice per year, but NBC 5 has learned that only about 20 percent got two inspections last year. This story was published February 29, 2012 - 12:22 a.m.

    Other cities already require training courses for restaurant workers. Dallas has only required them for restaurants that scored badly on inspections.

    The plan should come up for a vote in October. If it passes, every restaurant worker in the city would be required to take the safety class sometime next year.

    NBC 5 Investigation: Hundreds of Dallas Restaurants Not Inspected in Years

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    An NBC 5 investigation finds that more than 200 Dallas restaurants have not been inspected in at least two years. UPDATE: The people in charge of city inspections didn't know so many restaurants were so overdue until NBC 5 pointed it out. The city is now in the process of inspecting all of the restaurants on the list. Inspectors did visit the Burger King on Live Oak Street, Sammy's in Uptown and Hibiscus on Henderson in the past two weeks. All of them passed with good scores and have a history of good scores on past inspections. This story was published February 27, 2012 - 11:22 p.m.