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Milwaukee restaurants will now get letter grades to reflect number of health code violations

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- You'll soon see letter grades reflecting the number of health code violations at restaurants in Milwaukee.

The hope is to cut down on foodborne illnesses.

In 2018, letter grades will be given to restaurants inspected by the city but posting them will be voluntary. Then in 2019, all restaurants will need to put those grades up for the public to see.

CBS 58 News stopped by the 5'O Clock Steakhouse, the first restaurant graded under the new system.

"2018 marks 72 years that this restaurant has been operating. So there's like a lot of restaurants who are kind of stuck in doing things a certain way and traditions. And you have to maintain the character of who you are as a restaurant but there are certain things that do change," said Stelio Kalkounos, Managing Partner at 5 O'Clock Steakhouse. 

That includes the city inspection policy.

"These letter grades are going to be posted so that everyone can know exactly where a restaurant stands and everyone can make certain they can dine with confidence that food safety and the lack of foodborne illness is our number one goal here," said Bevan Baker, Commissioner of Health. 

"We offer training sessions. We offer consultations. We do offer translation services. So if there are any operators who are struggling to get into compliance, we're here to help," said Claire Evers, Consumer Environmental Health Division Director for the City of Milwaukee. 

5'O Clock Steakhouse got an "A."

Restaurants can get an "A" "B" or "C" grade. A "C" means the place may have to temporarily close.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association was concerned when the system was first proposed that it would cause friction between inspectors and restaurant owners.

"We did do some focus groups and we asked people 'if your favorite establishment had a B, would you still go to it?' And some people said they didn't care what the grade was, if they loved an establishment, they would go back," said Evers.

Issues that can lead to lower grades include improper food temperatures, bad employee sanitation protocols, and unclean work environments that could lead to cross-contamination. 

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