Cockroach originally uploaded by Jerry Wong
You may remember my coverage of South Metro restaurant inspections back in 2009 (#1, #2, #3). Well, today I received an e-mail from a St. Paul resident who was wondering how to get a hold of a restaurant inspection himself. Curious I asked him for what restaurant and why. Turns out Kim Huoy Chor Asian Cuisine on University in St. Paul sent out an e-mail to those customers who previously ordered online and asked for them to sign a petition to pass on to the City Council to help them remain in business after, as the petition mentioned, they, “have failed our health inspections,” after, “recently taking their eyes off the ball.” Sadly the owners of this restaurant not only lied to their previous patrons but also the City of St. Paul by failing to mention the most serious violations found…ones which would literally make anyone’s skin crawl.
Interested I e-mailed the Minnesota Department of Health who forwarded my request on to the City of St. Paul’s own health department which is licensed to do its own inspections. While I was unable to obtain the original inspection reports from St. Paul I did find find the 10/6/2010 City Council agenda packet which provided extremely detailed list of available background information (#41) including a summary of the 40 some inspections made since 2007 and detailed pictures of the most critical and disturbing violations such as this one from 10/15/2008 due to a report of a cockroach infestation:
Employees had captured some of the roaches and placed them in plastic condiment cups with names written on the sides, then displayed them on a shelf.
While this is just one example of many provided, it is part of a pattern of willful negligence on the part of the staff, management and ownership at Kim Huoy Chor which continued right up through the petition which, in part, claimed:
Nobody has ever been sick from our food.
Yet there were documented, yet unproven, cases of food borne illness within the background information which the owner of the restaurant attributed to recently fired and disgruntled ex-employees who he claimed, without proof, bragged of the report on their Facebook page.
Unfortunately due to the political oversight of their work, the Department of Health has to continue to let places like this remain open, even in states which may be extremely unhealthy for the public, until they have enough evidence to levy fines and eventually recommend license revocation. After three and a half years of inspections, numerous critical violations occurring during each and every visit, the largest fine ever brought down on a St. Paul restaurant in the history of the city, they were finally able to recommend that the restaurant be permanently closed.
At the St. Paul City Council meeting on October 6th, the Department of Health recommended, for the first time ever based solely on health code violations, that Kim Huoy Chor Asian Cuisine’s license be revoked and they not be permitted to reopen due to patrons becoming sick, the roaches, lack of proper cooling (sometimes 30 to 40 degrees warmer than permitted by law), the storing of wontons in a cardboard box originally used to ship raw chicken wings, and many other violations which you can read for yourselves. Unfortunately the majority of the four St. Paul City Councilmembers on hand played the political card and claimed they didn’t want to see a business close even if they were a public health hazard.
Some comments from the St. Paul City Councilmembers included:
Our function is not to shut businesses down. I’ve eaten there and enjoyed the food. I was asked if I would eat there again. There’s a whole lot of stuff which needs to be corrected. I hate ending, closing businesses. If the business would be willing to bring in an inspector at their expense, weekly, bi-weekly, etc. to ensure that the policies are being followed. Not to punish but to correct.
It’s clear the owner takes this seriously. He should have taken it seriously years ago. The department was patient, too patient. Our staff has made every accommodation to make this restaurant successful. I don’t know that they can be.
At the end of the day, even with City Staff highly recommending the restaurant close immediately and suggesting they had more than their fair share of chances since 2007, especially following the highest fine ever levied and the first time a restaurant was recommended for revocation based solely on health hazard concerns, the Council decided to table the discussion for a week and asked that staff again work with the restaurant to create a recommendation for an alternative plan which would include regular inspections at the restaurant’s expense, etc.
Overall I was completely and utterly shocked that the St. Paul City Councilmembers would ignore three and a half years of inspections, all with critical violations, and suggest that maybe they should get one more chance as pleaded for by the teary eyed owner who really should have learned his lesson in 2008 following the $825 fine. This restaurant needs to close and no more wasted staff time should be required by the council.
What do you think about Kim Huoy Chor Asian Cuisine’s repeated disregard for the safety of its patrons up to and including providing cockroaches found in the restaurant names, ignoring the largest fine every levied against a restaurant for health violations, and then purposefully misrepresenting the severity of the health code violations found to those they begged to sign a petition to keep them open? Do you think the City Council should have immediately revoked the licenses or is pushing it back for another week and having staff continue to work with the restaurant’s staff acceptable? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.