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A Seedy Business


A Brooklyn bagel shop owner was assessed $1, 650 in fines by a New York City Health Inspector because–get ready for this–poppy and sesame seeds fall to the floor as he makes his bagels. Alex Gormakh, the owner and a recent immigrant from Russia, opened B & B Empire Bagel Cafe in June 2011. Gormakh’s deli passed inspections both before and after he was cited for violations in October, and in the most recent inspection it received the highest cleanliness grade of “A.” Nevertheless, his appeal of the fine has been denied at two separate hearings. As a fellow Brooklyn bagel shop owner, whose establishment did pass inspection, points out, no matter how many times a day you sweep there will always be an accumulation of seeds on the floor. To avoid future citations, Gormakh and his son have now invested almost $900,000 in larger stainless steel preparation tables in the hope of avoiding seed fall out and a water-filter vacuum to suck up any wayward seeds.

But Gormakh has learned a valuable lesson in doing business in the American mixed economy: “If you want to work you have to pay. In Russia, they call it corruption. Here they call it something else. Either way, you have to pay.”

There was one positive effect from this monstrous incident. Judging by the heart warming vitriol of the comments on the article, even jaded New Yorkers were outraged. Here is a small sample:

“somebody didn’t pay someone off ”

“Russia they call it corruption, over here, in New York City, they call it EXTORTION WITH A BADGE.”

“The city is right there for falling seeds but, somehow can’t stop cranes from hitting the floor.” [Referring to a recent deadly crane accident at a a city construction project.]

“Yea, doing business. Usually the Health Inspectors are on the take anyway.”

“Health Department? Please… More like corruption Department! It is the duty of these inspectors to get money for the city. If every busieness owner made their stories of violations public, it would most definitely change things a bit.”

“Another mindless bureaucrat. If he had a mind he would be considered over qualified for a city job.”

And my personal favorite:

“Again, nothing more than the tyranny of regulation. My guess, Mr. Gormakh”s at fault for not offering a free bagel with a schmeer to the health inspector before the inspection occurred. Had he fed the government pig first, he could have imported roaches into the shop and not have had any violations.”


Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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