Pinellas Park, Florida -- Located in Pinellas Park on busy U.S. 19, Fresh Point County Buffet has a following of loyal customers.
"It was good, the food was great," said regular customer Darlene Moss. "I really liked it."
But Moss said she had no idea the restaurant had not met state inspection standards on their first three inspections of 2014.
A former employee filed an official complaint after being fired, alleging everything from mashed potatoes being made on the floor to customers finding human hair in their food, temperature violations, and employees not using gloves to handle raw food.
The complaint prompted an inspection by the State Division of Hotels and Restaurants. State regulators documented 112 violations on four separate inspections the week of January 29th.
Among the issues: food stored on the floor in the walk-in cooler; employees making food with no hair restraints; an open dumpster lid out back; live flies throughout the kitchen; an employee serving food without washing their hands after handling dirty dishes;temperature violations on the potato, macaroni and seafood salad; a black or green mold-like substance inside the ice machine; no food service manager on duty; no soap or paper towels at hand washing sinks; and no proof of employee training.
When the inspector returned later in the week, records show they found even more violations with live roaches in the front service area and a toxic chemical stored next to food. State records show many of the previous violations were not immediately corrected.
Following up on the state's visit, 10 News attempted to verify if conditions in the kitchen had improved.
When we walked inside, we were greeted by an employee named Angela who said she would try to find a manager. When she returned, she explained the manager was not available.
When we asked for the manager's name, the employee told us she couldn't give out that information.
We were also denied a copy of the restaurant's latest inspection report, something every restaurant in Florida is required by law to show anyone who asks.
"Well, I don't know," the employee responded.
We also found that dumpster lid still open behind the restaurant, which is a violation because it can potentially allow for flying insects to breed and potentially land on food in the kitchen.
No one from the restaurant ever returned our calls. Despite all the problems, customers we talked to still seem confident the food is safe.
"I'm happy to come here," said customer Everett DeWitt. "It doesn't scare me a bit!"
The whistleblower in this case admits she filed her complaint with the state after she was fired from the restaurant. She alleges management won't call her back either, withholding her final paycheck worth around $800. She has since moved to a homeless shelter, unable to pay her rent.
10 News made multiple follow up calls to the restaurant in an attempt to reach management, but no one would return our calls.
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