ST. PETE BEACH, Florida— College kids aren't the only ones flocking to the beach for Spring Break -- dtate health inspectors are also out in force shutting down local restaurants with potentially serious health code violations.
We begin with the Monte Cristo Family Restaurant at 1617 Main Street in Dunedin.
The establishment failed to meet state health code standards on four out of their past five inspections. The problems began back in August with an inspector documenting 38 violations including an employee touching ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, raw bacon stored over the creamers, gloves not changed after working with raw eggs, and an employee unable to answer basic food safety questions.
The state was back again on March 14th documenting raw beef stored over ready to eat food, temperature violations on the bacon at 49 degrees, no soap or paper towels at a hand washing sink, and live roaches in the three compartment sink. The inspector returned three days later finding more live roaches on the cook's line, at the dish machine, in the wait area, in the bathroom hallway, and in front entrance.
"There's actually no one here right now," said an employee who greeted us at the front door.
Kitchen staff was unwilling to show us the kitchen or their latest health inspection.
"I'm sorry, we can't do anything," said another male employee who emerged from the kitchen.
Our second stop took us out to the beach and Bay 1 Ice Cream on Indian Shores. The long-time ice cream parlor was shut down March 14th after a state inspector found objectionable odors, an employee touching a cone with bare hands, and a clogged sink, meaning "no place to wash, rinse or sanitize utensils and equipment," according to state inspection records.
We asked employee Jeannie Bisset how the restaurant was cleaning the dirty dishes without a working dish sink. "Everything was good until that moment and [the health inspector] called and said at this time we should probably make this an automatic closure until this is fixed," said Bisset, who called the incident "bad timing" and said the clogged sink was taken care of. "It was corrected right away and we were back in business the next day."
South to St. Pete Beach and the Dolphin Beach Resort at 4900 Gulf Blvd where we found 19 violations and an emergency closure on March 12.
The problems there included temperature violations on the tuna, chicken salad, coleslaw and sausage, a missing sneeze guard on the buffet, and live roaches under the steam table, dish machine, and dish rack. The inspector even documented two dead roaches inside the water softener unit contaminating the water supply.
We stopped in asking for permission to take a look in the hotel kitchen. "There's really no one here right now," said the restaurant hostess. In fact, employees told us there was no manager on duty in the restaurant or the hotel front desk.
Spring breakers staying at the beach resort were not happy to hear about all the violations.
"That's a real big concern," said Vance Jackson visiting from Chicago. "Obviously something as a consumer something that I'd want to know about."
All three restaurants have since been allowed to reopen after meeting state inspection standards.