ST. PETERSBURG, Florida- Thickburgers made from scratch, buttermilk biscuits, and hand-dipped milkshakes. That's what fans of Hardee's like Frank Batista have come to know and love over the years.
"I got some spicy chicken strips, some fries, and one of those red burritos," said Batista, who doesn't eat fast food often. "My wife didn't want to cook tonight and we stopped on in. Coupons."
He had no idea that on August 27 this Hardee's was temporarily closed down, after a state health inspector documented 24 violations, three considered high priority. Among the issues were small flying insects in the food prep area; dead and live roaches near the ice cream machine; more roaches behind the drink station; and a black or green mold like substance in with the ice.
"Black or green mold," asked a shocked Batista. "It's making the thought of eating my food kind of rough."
The state did clear this Hardee's to reopen the following day, so last week we stopped in trying to see just how cleaned up the kitchen really was.
"There is nobody here to talk to about that. You'd need to contact the corporate office," said manager Kim Wiseman, who insisted issues written up by the state were now corrected.
But when we asked for permission to take a look in the kitchen, we were told absolutely not. "I have no comment and no that's ... [we're] not going to be able to do that," Wiseman said.
We also wanted to see if the restaurant had the required copy of their inspection on hand for customers to see. "No, I do not," she told us.
When we explained not providing a copy to anyone who asks is a violation of Florida law, she walked away explaining she was too busy.
"I'm in a little bit of a rush right now ... so I can't even be dealing with this right now," said Wiseman, who then said she had a copy, but we'd be waiting "a long time" to see it.
This Hardee's location was also written up for not having proof of the proper food safety training for employees. Outside, we found the garbage dumpster lid wide open, a repeat violation. Open dumpster lids are not allowed because they can lead to rain water filling the dumpster, creating a perfect breeding ground for maggots and house flies, which can then get into the restaurant and land on food.
"Simple things like that that they still haven't changed," said a disappointed Kristen Thongdeng. "If they closed them, it would help prevent the flies."
After several minutes, the manager eventually did bring out a copy of their latest inspection report. We showed the list to customers like Batista, who was less than impressed.
"Who wants to eat in a restaurant that has dead roaches laying around? Who wants to drink out of a machine that has black and green mold in it?"