HERNANDO, Fla. -- Residents say there are only about three sit down restaurants in the entire tiny town of Hernando. So when a state inspector came to town and shut down Frank's Family Restaurant at 2780 North Florida Avenue, it was bad news for loyal customers.
"I've never seen anything out here to indicate they had a problem, and I was surprised, to be honest with you, that they had a problem," said one every day customer.
Turns out inspectors with Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation found 23 violations, 14 considered critical. They included dented/rusty cans of food, a refrigerator not keeping food at a properly cold temperature, a sugar scooper encrusted with soil deposits, and filthy kitchen floors.
But perhaps most alarming of all were the live roaches running throughout the restaurant. The inspector documented 25 roaches on her visit on December 27, 2011. When she took a peek inside a food storage closet out back, it got worse, with 50 plus rodent droppings documented. Some of the droppings were inside a box of powdered dessert mix used to make chocolate mousse, according to the report. The inspector wrote some of the bags showed signs of chewing.
"She says you gotta close... so I did," said restaurant owner Bill Wineski. "Most of my help came down and spent the whole night scrubbing and cleaning."
Wineski confirmed the restaurant previously had a problem with insects, but insisted the problem had been taken care of. He granted 10 News unrestricted access behind the kitchen door to prove his kitchen is now up to code.
At first glance, the kitchen appeared clean and organized with the bug problem taken care of. "I have a gentleman who comes in once a month, maybe twice a month," said Wineski. "There's nothing running around the store."
He attributes last month's poor inspection to cold weather and says he doesn't blame the bugs and rodents for seeking shelter.
"I even like to get in out of the cold. Plus, it's kinda attractive... to something that's hungry. It's called a restaurant," Wineski joked.
Unfortunately for customers, though, we eventually came across some bugs on our visit as well. What appeared to be a live roach was caught by our 10 News camera scampering through the food storage closet near those open boxes of dessert mix.
Another dead insect was spotted on the kitchen floor.
Photo Gallery: Reopened restaurant's continuing bug problem
We also pointed out the back kitchen door was slightly cracked, an easy entry point for insects or even rodents.
"Every once in a while there is a mouse. Everyone knows there are bugs here and there. I take care of it whenever I'm told, and I take care of it constantly," said Wineski.
We shared the restaurants inspection report with longtime customer Merlin Frum. "I'm not really totally happy with that, but I realize that does happen," said Frum, who promised he would continue eating at Frank's Family Restaurant despite the problems.
After shutting the restaurant down for half a day on December 27th, the state inspector returned December 28th and cleared the restaurant to reopen.
You can search the restaurant's entire inspection history dating back to early 2010 by clicking here.
Another surprise state inspection would be expected before April 2012.
Take a look at our previous Behind the Kitchen Door reports:
Classic Homestyle Buffet, Tampa 1/11/12
Big Easy Cajun, Brandon TownCenter 1/25/12
CiCi's Pizza, Kenneth City 2/1/12
China Express, Brandon 2/8/12
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