NYC’s fire department is still out conducting restaurant inspections during the pandemic, a spokesperson confirmed to Eater. It’s a move catching some restaurateurs by surprise considering mass COVID-19-related shutdowns due to the statewide mandate, as the FDNY notices say that failure to reschedule will result in penalties — but the FDNY tells Eater that no fines will be issues during the pandemic.
The FDNY’s Bureau of Fire Prevention has conducted more than 6,300 inspections in the past seven days, including restaurant inspections, according to spokesperson Frank Dwyer. For restaurants that are closed with no one on the premises to allow the FDNY into the building, the department is taping “no-access” letters to restaurants’ front doors instead.
The form letter states that operators are responsible for rescheduling their inspection — and notes that “failure to schedule an inspection as required will result in violation orders being issued as well as penalties.”
But according to Dwyer, restaurants do not need to anticipate penalties or violations at this time. “We know businesses are suffering tremendously,” Dwyer says. “We’re only looking to ensure safety and confirm fire prevention inspections can take place.”
Justin Cohen, the owner of October, a new fast-casual restaurant in Nolita, was initially “shocked” to find an inspection notice from the FDNY taped to his front door despite the restaurant being closed during the pandemic. Though he understand why inspections are still happening as some businesses continue to do delivery, October already underwent a required FDNY inspection when the restaurant opened in January.
“There’s a sign very clearly stating that we are closed for COVID-19, and my phone number is on there for any deliveries,” Cohen says.
He only spotted the notice because the restaurant has a small farm in the basement that requires weekly staff upkeep, even during the closure. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have even been aware of it,” Cohen says, adding that he was able to reschedule an inspection for a few months out fairly easily.
Kevin Hooshangi, the managing partner of American Whiskey in both Midtown and Tribeca, also reported an unexpected visit from the FDNY for an inspection in early April.
While the FDNY isn’t issuing any fines for missed inspections right now, other departments are not following suit. The NYPD has still been issuing traffic violations for some food businesses, Eater previously reported. In late March, a food truck in Midtown received a $65 ticket for not having the correct food permit paperwork available for review.
At the time, the NYPD told Eater that the department was not easing up on enforcement during the pandemic.