Voters reject restaurant grading system

Ashland voters rejected the restaurant grading measure that would have required restaurants to post letter grades of their health inspection scores by a margin of 3-to-1.

The Oregon Restaurant Association celebrated the defeat of what they viewed as a redundant measure, duplicating the restaurant scores already posted online with an additional estimated cost to the city of $60,000 per year.

"We're just pleased that the Ashland voter is an educated voter that doesn't just vote just on their feelings," said Drew Bailey, an Ashland resident and regional representative for the restaurant association. "They get educated about an issue."

The results were a relief to restaurant owners who contributed significant time and energy to campaign against the measure, but the effort also helped bring restaurateurs together as a team, Bailey said.

"We knew there wasn't an underlying problem to begin with, so to move forward and continue to serve the community wonderful meals is something they will continue to do," he said.

Measure 15-88 was submitted by Ashland resident John Jory, who had previously petitioned the City Council to pass a grading law in March 2007.

Grades would have been based on Jackson County's numerical health inspection ratings, which are posted on the county Web site. The city would have been required to distribute printed letter grades to restaurants each time restaurants were inspected.

Restaurants with a score of 90 points or above would receive an "A," those with scores from 80 to 89 would get a "B" and those with scores of 70 to 79 would earn a "C." Scores below 70 fail the county's health inspection and must pass a new inspection in order to remain open.

The council rejected the proposal and decided in August 2008 to send the issue to voters.

Jory said he was sickened after eating at a downtown restaurant in 2007. The restaurant, which has since closed, had a score of 75 at the time, which would translate to a "C" grade under Jory's system.

Jory said he would not continue to push for the law and hoped the state would take up the cause.

"I thought I was doing something altruistic for the people of Ashland," he said. "If the citizens of Ashland don't want it, I don't care. I've given up. I know which restaurants are safe."

Restaurant owners who opposed the measure, including Señor Sam's manager Alice Drysdale, said they were pleased with the results.

"I think it's really, really great for not only the people of Ashland, but the City of Ashland because of the cost it would have entailed," Drysdale said. "I opposed it because it would have been misleading to the public."

To determine the safety of a restaurant, consumers would need to read the inspector's report rather than relying on a number or a letter grade, she said. Some point deductions reflect critical safety infringements while others do not, she said. Since 2006, Senor Sam's has received health inspection scores of 92, 83, 79, 90 and 90.

"My concern was that a very wonderful restaurant would get a bad grade and lose business," she said. "In this economy, we cannot afford to lose any kind of business."

Restaurant health inspection scores can be viewed at

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

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