Clearwater, Florida— CiCi's Pizza has a loyal following of customers who enjoy the restaurant chain's all-you-can-eat buffet.
"The price is good. You can't beat it for $5.99," said regular customer TJ Ettle.
But what price are customers really willing to pay for a slice of pizza made with ingredients not properly refrigerated?
State health inspectors wrote up the Clearwater Cici's back in December for temperature abuse on the pizza toppings, ingredients like the cheese, meat, and sauces found between 45 and 47 degrees. When the problems weren't fixed the following day, the state ordered the restaurant to stop using the walk-in cooler until it was fixed, scheduling yet another follow up inspection.
"The safety of the people who come here is important. We have children who come here, they have parties here. We don't want the kids to get sick, you know," said Ettle.
But it appears health inspectors dropped the ball, failing to follow-up until last Friday -- four months later discovering that same walk-in cooler was again not working.
"It's bad news," said a disappointed Ettle. "They should have done something right then and there. And after four months they come back and it's still not fixed … then they have the right to come and close them down."
And that's what happened with the state finally issuing an emergency closure. 10 News stopped in Tuesday afternoon to find the CiCi's restaurant closed down for good.
We were even invited inside, where restaurant equipment was already being auctioned off!
"There's a roach right there," said a man unloading equipment, who pointed out an insect crawling under a food prep counter. We also found what appeared to be mold in the ice machine, food stored on the floor, and that walk-in cooler still too warm, all in a restaurant that was serving food to the public just days ago.
CiCi's corporate office tells 10 News the restaurant was scheduled to close this week anyway, as the entire strip mall will soon be demolished. But the health inspector arrived to find an open restaurant Friday and a long list of violations.
In a written statement CiCi's, said their franchisees are always expected to "adhere to company standards for food safety, which meet or exceed health department regulations."
The state's most recent report indicates that wasn't the case in the Clearwater location. A sign on the front door directed customers to the chain's 66th Street North location in Kenneth City.