PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A controversial proposal that would have given restaurants a letter grade on their safety and sanitation was rejected in a vote by Allegheny County Council Tuesday evening.

The restaurant grading system plan went down in Allegheny County Council by a vote of 12-1. And that’s what local restaurant owners were hoping.

“I’m pretty happy. It’s a big weight off a lot of people’s shoulders, I’m sure,” said Robert Storms, the owner of Storms Restaurant.

The plan was approved by the Allegheny County Health Department last September.

The Allegheny County Board of Health thought grades would give diners more food safety information than the current pass-fail system.

But restaurants fought the plan every step of the way right up to Tuesday night’s vote.

“This discussion is not about increasing the knowledge and training of food service workers, rather it is about catching, punishing and embarrassing,” said Kevin Joyce, of The Carlton.

Some feared a couple of minor infractions could result in a “B” grade, giving diners the wrong impression.

“I firmly believe that if one of my restaurants receives a grade lower than an ‘A,’ that it will not simply affect that particular restaurant, but it will affect our entire brand,” said Mike Mitcham, of Primanti Bros.

The health board’s motive was to incentivize restaurants to strictly follow the rules.

Ryan Bidney, of Irwin, who was visiting Station Square Tuesday, backs that.

“The restaurant, knowing that that letter grade is gonna be presented, I believe that they’ll feel stronger about, you know, wanting to keep up with their standards and keep their standards higher,” said Bidney.

But, restaurant owners say they have incentive enough as is – survival.

“Without food safety, we don’t have a business,” said Jeff Cohen, of Smallman Street Deil. “In my business, my mother and dad eat at my restaurant, and trust me, if it’s not safe for my mother and dad, I wouldn’t want them eating there.”

The council vote is a defeat for the county Board of Health and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Both were supporters of the letter grade proposal.

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