State DCF employee cafeteria ordered to close

TAMPA, Florida -- Hundreds of employees work inside DCF's Tampa office on North Florida Avenue, and every day many of those employees enjoy breakfast or lunch from the agency's in-house restaurant.

"Normally every morning, [I get] bacon egg and cheese on toast," said an employee named Yvonne getting ready to order her lunch.

But Yvonne and other state employees say they had no idea their very own office cafeteria was shut down as an emergency closure by another state agency earlier in March. The Division of Hotels and Restaurantsordered the Parthenon Café closed after discovering 35 violations.

State records show the issues included food stored on the floor, temperature violations on the cheese, milk and other dairy products, ants crawling across the food prep table and rodent activity, with 110 droppings under coolers near the cooks line and right below shelving by the dish sink. The state health inspector also reported rodent chew marks along the walls and ceilings and a toxic chemical stored right next to an open coffee container.

10 News stopped in to see if conditions had improved inside the employee cafeteria.

"If you'd like to come back later or something, because right now we're really busy," said an employee identifying himself as Ralph Capp. Management assured us the kitchen is now clean.

"We have corrected the issues, we were allowed by the state to open up," said Capp. "We are still working on a couple things because I don't have my food manager's license, which I have to renew because it's expired."

In fact, state records show the cafeteria was operating with no proof of any employee training, and a delinquent food service license. When it came to take a look in the kitchen, we were again told the restaurant was too busy.

"We're right in the middle of lunch. It's against the law for you guys to be back there without hats," said Capp.

But as we could see from the front counter, there were no hats or hair nets on the two employees working in the kitchen. A quick scan from the front counter showed more potential problems, with what appeared to be possible chemicals and cleaners stored in close proximity, or hanging over food.

"Like I said, we're not serving the public," Capp.

State employees might argue they deserve the same levels of safety, cleanliness and sanitation as everyone else. When asked about what specific steps were taken to clean up some of the violations, management could only show us a new roll of paper towels at the front employee hand sink- something missing on the original state inspection.

Employees say they're worried about all the issues now brought to light, but remain hopeful their employee cafeteria will soon improve.

"My concern is just that they get it fixed right away," said employee Linda Boykin.

To be clear, Parthenon Café is not operated by the state, but is certainly operating in a state run building and serving potentially hundreds of state employees every week.

The state also acknowledges some of their clients and others who come to the building on a regular basis might also get food from the in-house café.

A spokesperson for the DCF Tampa office could not say if the state was considering making a change in their food service provider.


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