Where Restaurants Plead Their Case






New York’s restaurants sprawl across a vast territory, from the pristine precincts of the multicourse tasting menu to the gritty backwaters of the takeout joint. But there is one grim corner where they all come together: the health department tribunal, a little-publicized court system that metes out penalties for violations of the city sanitary code.

It has been there for years, in a nondescript government office in Lower Manhattan where more than a dozen administrative law judges escort their charges into cramped rooms and hear them wrangle over infractions, in a ritual reminiscent of visiting the principal’s office.

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