Frequently Asked Questions about the NYC Dept of health policies for restaurants & Food service establishments

Disclaimer: the views, opinions, links, and advice expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the City of New York ("NYC"), the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Bureau of Food Safety & Community Sanitation ("DOH"), or any other public or private entity.  Forms available for download are linked whenever possible to an outside origin; otherwise, forms have been scanned & uploaded onto the Bulletproof website for your convenience only. All information is known to be current as of January 23, 2017.

1. I lost my letter grade card.  What do I do now? A principal of the licensee (named on the original food service establishment application) or an individual authorized to act upon behalf of the principal must go to the NYC DOH offices at 125 Worth Street, 10th Floor, in Manhattan, and request a form which will need to be signed & notarized, then handed back in for a new grade card.  Be sure to bring your government-issued photo ID (such as a passport or driver license).  If you are an individual authorized to act on behalf of a principal of the licensee, you will need a copy of the principal's photo ID and this form, which will need to be signed by the principal & notarized.

2. I've got my grade card but forgot where to post it. Grade cards must be posted within 5 feet of the main entrance of your establishment, and within 4 to 6 feet in height above the sidewalk or floor.  They cannot be obstructed by plants, menus, or anything else (yes, even wacky waving inflatable tube men can't interfere with the clear display of the letter grade).

3. Where can I go to get a Food Protection Certificate?  You can study for the test, learn, and take quizzes online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/services/hanyfood-online.shtml or reach out to the NYC Hospitality Alliance for a 2 1/2 day class.

4. And where do I take the test for the Food Protection Certificate?  The NYC Health Academy, Riverside Health Center, 160 West 100th Street, Second Floor, New York, NY 10025.  Really?  There isn't any place closer?  Nope, that is the only place that you can take the FPC test.

5. I haven't received the renewal for my Food Service Establishment permit yet.  What can I do?  You can go online to https://a858-elpaca.nyc.gov/CitizenAccess/Welcome.aspx  and register.  If you do not have a PIN number, you can request it on the same page.  It may take up to 3 business days for the PIN number to be sent.  Once it is, you can register & renew online. Be sure you print out your payment receipt, and be sure you're ready to pay an additional 2.49% in fees for using your credit card online.  If you want to renew old-school, go down to the Department of Consumer Affairs at 42 Broadway, first floor (just to the right inside the lobby), and request a renewal form.  You'll need your old permit, your photo ID, and workers compensation & disability insurance with NYC Dept of Health named as Certificate Holder.  A sample certificate can be found here.         

6. I have a brand-new restaurant.  Do I need a pre-permit inspection? You are not required to have a pre-permit inspection if you have waited 21 days or longer after you've applied for a permit.

7. I want a pre-permit inspection from DOH but want to understand the advantages and disadvantages. Can you clarify?  Sure!

Advantages to pre-permit inspection through NBAT, SBS, or DOH: 

  1. The pre-permit inspection allows the permit to be released & mailed approximately 2 weeks after the inspection
  2. The inspection is not punitive; there are no fines associated with the inspection
  3. The inspection is scheduled ahead of time, usually about a week to 10 days ahead of the requested date, and the inspector calls the day before to let us know what time the inspector will arrive (between 8am and 5pm)

Disadvantages to the pre-permit inspection:

  1. No food, drink, alcohol, or ice can be on premises for the inspection
  2. All equipment, including cooking gas and hot water, must be fully functional
  3. All construction must be complete; your restaurant must be clean & ready to open to the public
  4. An entire day is lost and needs to be dedicated to the inspection
  5. The pre-permit inspection does not delay the first unannounced operational inspection (i.e. your graded inspection)
  6. The pre-permit inspection is not a graded inspection; the 'A' will not be earned until the operational inspection

8. Can Bulletproof! do a pre-permit inspection for me?  Yes, of course; we specialize in conforming to the Health Code and finding construction-related issues before they become violations with fines.  Ensure your operation & team is ready for the DOH with a pre-permit "mock" inspection.  And allow me to clarify: an inspection from Bulletproof! or any other consultant is not a substitution for a DOH inspection, nor does it confer any privileges or rights of representation.  The Dept of Health will still inspect your establishment, but we can set you up for success!

9. Can I make & package my own house-made juice? Yes, but there is label information that you must include.  Those criteria are available here.  If you are making juice for consumption at your restaurant, you do not need to comply with the labeling law.  If the juice has a cap, top, or is grab-and-go in anything other than a disposable to-go cup, then the juice must be labeled in accordance with 81.04(e) of the NYC Health Code.

10. Can I make my restaurant dog friendly?  Under Article 81.25 of the NYC Health Code, only service animals are permitted inside of an establishment.  However, pets are allowed in outdoor areas as long as the entry to the outdoor area is not from indoors. Restaurants with backyards should not have non-service animals in the backyard if the only entry is from inside the restaurant. But those restaurants with sidewalk cafes can have dogs hanging out inside the sidewalk cafe itself as long as the dogs enjoy food & water from disposable containers, don't create a nuisance for other guests, and don't bite anyone.  And it must be Front-of-House staff who clean up after a dog; Back-of-House foodworkers are not allowed to. 

11. Is there a list of all the permits & signs I'm required to have posted in my restaurant? Yes.  The Mayor's Office put out a handy "Permits & Signs" pamphlet a few years ago. You can download that pamphlet here.

12. Why do I need to have nutritional facts information for baked or fried product that I buy from other vendors, such as bakeries?  In 2007, NYC DOH began enforcing the City-wide ban on products with more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.  Since then, other cities have caught up to the negative effects of trans fat consumption, including an increase in LDL (that's the bad cholesterol in our bodies).  Yet not all cities have cut trans fat from their products.  To ensure compliance with the regulation, the DOH wants to see one of two things for breads, cookies, French fries, fish sticks, cakes, muffins, oils, shortenings, and other baked, fried, or oil-based products which are not made  in your kitchen.  The first thing an inspector asks for is the Nutrition Facts Panel. If you do not have that for the product in question, then you must have a letter from the manufacturer or baker naming the product in question, and the amount of trans fat in it (should be between zero and 0.5 grams per serving). The letter should be signed by a manager of the manufacturer, be printed on the manufacturer's or baker's letterhead, and include contact info such as address, phone number, and/or email. 

13. What are the different requirements between a commissary kitchen and a restaurant? The differences begin with the permit: a commissary kitchen has an H26 permit, which means that it is a "non-retail FSE" where customers are not eating food.  A restaurant has an H25 permit, which is a "retail FSE" where patrons can dine and/or take food to-go.  Commissaries typically produce food in-bulk for other businesses; restaurants produce single-servings for the general public.  Commissaries are not graded and always have to pay fines after a DOH inspection; restaurants must display a grade card after a graded inspection and have no fines to pay if they receive 13 points or less on a DOH inspection.  Both establishments must have a Food Protection Certificate (FPC) holder on-site & supervising other foodworkers during all hours of operation (when they are producing food, whether or not they are open to the public).  See # 3 above for FPC info.