Health code violations "interrupt" restaurant customer's meal

"They locked the doors while I was still inside eating," recalls Leech who suspected something was wrong but didn't know exactly what.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Imagine sitting down for a meal at your favorite restaurant only to have a health inspector come and shut the place down due to health code violations.

Nightmare, right?

Well, that’s what Bob Leech said happened to him last Tuesday at the Spring Garden Family Restaurant on 62nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg.

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“They locked the doors while I was still inside eating,” recalls Leech who suspected something was wrong but didn’t know exactly what. "I've been coming here seven days a week ever since the day they were open.”

When Leech returned the following day the restaurant was still closed with a sign warning of the threat to public health right on the front door.

“I asked and they really didn't want to talk about it.”

State records show Spring Garden was shut down February 20th with 26 violations.

Among the issues, a health inspector with the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants reported finding raw chicken and beef stored in the same containers with mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and spinach pie. The report shows temperature violations on the tuna salad, tzatziki, and cream along with live roach activity.

The inspection was triggered when a consumer filed a complaint with the health department stating they spotted “roaches crawling up the wall” and onto “loaves of bread.”

When the inspector went inside, they confirmed the presence of roaches with activity found around the pancake syrup and right under the bread station.

“I don't like that at all,” said Leech hearing about the violations for the first time. “If I would have known there were roaches in here I probably wouldn't have come in until it was cleaned up.”

10News stopped in Tuesday to check on conditions a week later. Longtime manager Mary Funes told us the restaurant’s pest control company did a good job addressing the problem.

“They really stepped up. They’ve been in here countless hours taking care of this old building,” said Funes.

She allowed our camera into the kitchen to show cleaned up conditions, and that’s exactly what we found.

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From the walk-in cooler to the back storage areas we found much-improved conditions. Any remaining violations were hard to find. The only issue we spotted was a bottle of soap that wouldn’t pump anything out.

We also searched high and low and found no remaining roaches.

“For me, it's got to be clean,” said Patricia Rayner who was eating with her husband. We shared with her the findings of our inspection.

“Thank you very much,” said Rayner when we shared the news about the cleaned up kitchen. “I was going to have to leave otherwise.”

As for Bob Leech, he says he’s also glad to hear about the restaurant’s turn around and plans to continue visiting every day as he’s been doing for years.

“They care here, they absolutely care,” said Leech. “As long as I can, I'm going to be coming back here.”

You can view Spring Garden Restaurant’s full inspection history here.

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