Harlem cafe disguises health inspection rating in window sign

Lauren Glassberg reports
November 1, 2013 6:45:56 PM PDT
Manny Pena is trying to have a sense of humor about the "B" rating the city dished him in June. That "B" rating is posted in the front window. But in a twist, it is incorporated into a larger sign advertising Sunday brunch at Astor Row Cafe.

"I actually didn't notice it until today. Just in my goings and comings, I always see the sign but I didn't actually notice the 'B.' I think it's really clever. It's a great way to take a not-so-great-rating and make it into something funny," said customer A.J. Jackson.

But the fine that comes with the rating isn't funny to this small business owner.

"My 'B' cost me $3,200," said Manny.

That's a lot of money for a cafe that's more of a gathering spot for the neighborhood than a money maker.

The Health Department notes the "B" rating is due to three main issues, the temperature at which a cold food item was held, evidence of mice, and how surfaces aren't properly sanitized.

But Manny says none of that is valid. And his pest control reports further prove no evidence of mice.

Customers say they too aren't concerned about the 'B' rating.

"I actually didn't even notice the sign. I've been coming here for maybe about a year now," said Sheik Haughton.

Manny's paid the fine, and hopes that his customers stay loyal to Astor Row Cafe, a small business that's serving this Harlem community, despite some obstacles.

"If this is the way New York supports businesses, they're not doing a very good job," said Manny Pena.

And that "B" grade given in June? The restaurant will get another inspection.