ST. PETERSBURG, Florida- Tucked away off 94th Avenue North and Martin Luther King Jr. Street, The Sports Bar & Grill is the definition of a local neighborhood bar.
"It's real close to home and a fun neighborhood bar and the staff is a lot of fun," said customer Mike Matheis.
But November 6th, a state health inspector found more than just chicken wings inside the kitchen. The state documented 38 violations closing the establishment down as a temporary emergency closure.
When we first stopped in, the kitchen was still closed. The owner told us improvements were underway, so we stopped back again a week later and this time owner Eric Johnson gave us a full tour.
"Basic spring cleaning," said Johnson. "It needed it."
But the state report indicates there were more serious issues- including a black or green mold like substance inside the ice machine and on the soda dispensing nozzles, a hand washing sink with not enough water pressure to even wash your hands, no soap or paper towels at another sink in the bar area, a dead roach found in the kitchen and rodent activity... with 50 droppings found on the dry storage shelf, and 50 more under the prep table. And under that same table, the inspector also found rodent chew marks along the base boards.
When asked about the rodent issue, Johnson replied, "They said there was, but that was a matter of opinion I think."
Through holidays and even hurricanes, the owner says the sad thing was this was the first time his neighborhood bar had been forced to close down for more than 24 hours in the bar's 16 years in business.
"You know that's their job," Johnson said of the inspectors. "They tell me what I got to fix, I fix it. And I fixed it, over and above."
Bartender Kathy Thomas has worked at the sports bar for 15 years.
"This is the cleanest this bar has ever been. It is the cleanest bar in St. Petersburg right now... trust me," said Thomas.
And that's what we found, a cleaned up kitchen fully stocked with soap and paper towels a brand new sink, clean cooler and no sign of any additional insects or rodent droppings.
"I believe the health inspector said 'you went over and above, you did a great job, it's amazing,'" said Johnson.
After touring the kitchen, we feel confident giving the Sports Bar & Grill our A-OK with a cleaned up kitchen.
Take a look at their entire inspection history here.