NEW YORK — Nail salons, barber shops and spas throughout the five boroughs could soon receive restaurant-style letter grades if the City Council gets its way.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Councilman Rafael Espinal announced a legislative package Wednesday that would call on the state to give the city authority to create a system of letter grades for salons and spas.
The package would also create a Bill of Rights for salon and spa customers and call on the New York State Division of Licensing Services, which issues licenses for cosmetologists, to expand the health and safety training it offers.
Specific criteria the letter grades would be based on still need to be worked out, but would likely have to do with the cleanliness of businesses and the instruments they use. Inspections would probably be carried out by the city's Department of Health.
The Consumer Bill of Rights could allow salon patrons to ask for all tools to be disinfected before each use, see the letter grade and inspection results for a business and request good ventilation to lessen strong chemical odors, according to a draft on display at the conference.
Diaz personalized the problems that can stem from poorly maintained salons, sharing a story about his wife's aunt who got a pedicure last summer for a family reunion that led to an infection in her foot due to unsterile equipment.
"She was in pain," he said. "I hate to say this, but she had a big ball of pus on her big toe, and it resulted in an emergency room visit, and it put a damper on the festivities."
He also stressed that this legislation was not meant to harm or impose a new tax on spas and salons, but was just a way to help keep New Yorkers safe.
The proposal already has about six sponsors in the council, despite just being introduced on Wednesday, according to Diaz. This includes Bronx Councilman Andrew Cohen, who described it as "common sense legislation" at the press conference.
Although the proposal is only a request to the state to let the city set up the letter grading system, Diaz said he was confident and optimistic about the level of support the idea would receive in Albany.
Rommy Pennella, executive director of the New York Hispanic Cosmetology and Beauty Chamber of Commerce, said businesses had been concerned the legislation could lead to added expenses, but she framed it as a good development for the stores because knowing salons are graded could make more customers comfortable patronizing them.
Cosmetology business owners and employees in The Bronx offered differing opinions on the possible letter grading system.
Kim Pham, who owns the South Bronx salon Honey Nails, said she thought such a system would be unnecessary, especially for an establishment like hers that does not serve that many customers.
"Our business is very small," she said. "I think we don't need it."
However, Andy Brito, a barber at the nearby Friendly's Barber Shop, was more enthusiastic about the idea. He said it could help good hairdressers increase their business.
"If you're doing well, then you get more customers," he said. "That's a way for people to know, if you haven't been there, if you give good service."