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Restaurant rating system rolls out

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  Tina VanBibber admits she was little scared at first to find out her Bridge Road eatery would be first to be inspected under a new color-coded rating system.

"I did panic, I'm not going to lie," said VanBibber, owner of Wheelhouse.

It didn't take her long to calm down.

VanBibber and the staff have received high marks from health inspectors in the past. Cleanliness is something she stresses to restaurant staff.

"You walk in here and if we're not busy, you see someone with a towel in their hand," VanBibber said. "We stay clean. I think we do a really good job."

Restaurant inspections are typically unannounced but officials from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department told VanBibber in this case because hers was the first restaurant to be assigned a color-coded rating under a new rating system that rolled out countywide Friday morning. Representatives from media outlets were invited to witness the inspection.

Under the new system, restaurants are rated according to the number of critical and non-critical violations they receive. They are given a rating of green for "excellent," yellow for "good" or orange for "fair" compliance with the food code. The rating sheets are posted near the front of the restaurant and include a list of violations.

Beginning Feb. 7, those inspections also will be available online via the health department's website, www.kchdwv.org.

Sanitarians also give restaurants a gold star on their inspection reports if they have few or no violations when the inspectors arrive. The award distinguishes those restaurants that had few violations to begin with from those that may have corrected the violation.

Wheelhouse earned both a green excellent rating and a gold star.

Registered Sanitarian David Winowich gave one the eatery violation because badly dented cans were kept near other cans. Restaurants are required to keep dented cans away from other cans. They can throw them away or set them aside to be returned to a vendor for a refund, Winowich said.

VanBibber likes the new rating system, she said. Health officials had been running a pilot program in the South Charleston and Corridor G areas of Kanawha County for the past six months. VanBibber said she'd been to eateries in those areas and noticed the ratings.

"As long as everyone plays by the rules you shouldn't have a problem with it at all," she said.

The new rating system quickly tells customers how clean the restaurant is, VanBibber said.

"I don't have to stand and study it," she said. "I just look at the color code and they, 'Hey they're doing good. They don't have any problems.'"

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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