SAFETY HARBOR, Florida -- At the corner of 10th and Main in the historic downtown area, The Safety Harbor Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But August 6th the popular restaurant wasn't open at all. The establishment was shut down by the state with 28 health code violations. An inspector with the Division of Hotels and Restaurants wrote up an employee for failing to wash their hands before putting on gloves, and found food not properly date marked and with roach activity with 14 live roaches found throughout the kitchen, next to the prep table inside the reach-in cooler next to some uncovered potato salad and more right next to the clean plates for customer food.
10 News stopped in a week later after the state cleared the restaurant to reopen, to check on conditions inside the kitchen.
"Health inspector, he come in here every month for nothing… no reason," said manager Bekim Shala who feels like his business was treated unfairly, shut down for violations that either didn't exist or would not normally result in an emergency closure.
"Me and my brother Steve open the restaurant. Someone no like. From first day we have complaint from some restaurant. People jealous… me good business."
State records show a complaint was filed resulting in an extra June inspection. The state was back again less than two months later, this time temporarily forcing the restaurant to close.
"He needs to be fair," said Shala.
And while management disputes violations on their restaurant's health inspection, Shala had no problem inviting our camera for a look inside the kitchen.
"You want to see my kitchen? Inside is always clean and everything," Shala said taking us inside.
Behind the kitchen door we found what appeared to be an impressively clean kitchen.
There was soap and paper towels at each and every hand sink for employees to wash their hands. We also found food properly date marked and no sign of any insects. In fact, The Safety Harbor Grill had one of the cleanest kitchens we've seen immediately following an emergency closure.
"How I keep my house clean… I need to keep my kitchen," said a fired up Shala. He says he doesn't want to complain about state inspectors but urges customers to take a look inside his kitchen for themselves.
"Every time my customers come in he can see tables clean, how I make the food, how it can be clean."
Customers seem satisfied too.
"Food was good, service was nice, yeah, it was great," said customer Scott Kelly. "I'd recommend it."
Based on our inspection we give Safety Harbor Grill the A-OK, issuing the all clear on this week's Restaurant Red Alert.