Due to Sichuan Garden Scandal, Brookline Amends Food Service Permits

The Department of Public Health is looking to avoid future crises caused by online pricing discrepancies.


Sichuan Garden’s Ran Duan. Photo by Alex Lau

It looks like the Boston.com/Sichuan Garden debacle has already resulted in some serious changes. Starting this week, the Brookline Department of Public Health has  begun issuing Food Service Health Permits with an addendum stating:

Menu Pricing: All establishments are advised to keep their “On-Line” menus current and up to date specific to pricing. Customers should not be charged a higher than posted amount on the menu. Delivery and service charges can be separately charged with appropriate advisories on the menu.

“We send out a notice to our licensees with their annual permits and I instruct them on a variety of things,” said assistant director of public health Pat Maloney. “This is a new one added this year because of an incident that got significant coverage related to an individual complaining that what was online and what he was charged was not correct. Coincidentally, when that became a public issue I was going before the licensing board that evening and they brought it up. So, I said that I would look into it and remind all of our license holders. People try to keep web pages as part of their operational presentation, but they don’t realize you have to revisit the thing. Even municipal government is guilty of not updating their webpage. So we thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of our licensing cycle.”

Maloney said that even though sanitation and public health remain the primary concerns of the Health Department, they’re also tasked with consumer protection laws. And although Maloney said the Sichuan Garden case was “an isolated issue,” the department decided to act quickly in order to avoid a similar predicament in the future.

“In this one instance, we contacted the restaurant and they advised us that they had corrected their web page,” Maloney says. “We checked it out and we found that was the case. Case closed. Ninety-nine percent of the times, you bring it someone’s attention, and they comply right away because they know they can be fined or have a licensing hearing.”

Below you can read the entire Brookline permit notice, including the new online pricing addendum directed at all restaurants and food retailers as well as the December ban on plastic bags and polystyrene.

2015 Permit Letter