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Roaches and a side of grits: Here's why this local joint is our Restaurant Red Alert

Johnny Grits in New Port Richey was temporarily shut down by health inspectors last week with 47 violations.

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Along busy Main Street in New Port Richey, customers gathered for brunch on the outdoor patio at Johnny Grits Southern Fresh.

“Their eggs benedict are really, really good here,” said Bernie Krotz, who visits the restaurant often with his wife Linda when they’re down from Canada.  

“The food is always good whether it is for dinner or lunch or brunch,” Krotz said. 

But, what the two didn't know was less than a week earlier, the restaurant was temporarily shut down by state health inspectors as an emergency closure with 47 violations.

State records showed the issues included small flying insects around the kitchen, an employee not properly washing their hands before putting on gloves to work with food, possible cross-contamination with raw ground beef stored in the same container with ready to eat roast beef.

The list of violations continued to show there were live roaches found near the salad making station, under the knife rack, crawling around the tables and seats in the dining room.  

The inspector reported finding more roaches and roach excrement in a bin with utensils and on a shelf with the dishes.

“Well, that’s not good at all,” said Linda Krotz.

“Quite frankly, if we where are in Canada, we wouldn’t go near a restaurant like that.”  

On Wednesday, after talking to customers, 10News stopped in to check on what the restaurant did to get the violations corrected.

“We’ve completely resolved it actually,” said manager Michael O’Neal.

The restaurant was closed down for five days.  

O’Neal said when he returned, even he was surprised by the owner’s complete renovation of the kitchen.

“It’s been completely painted, sprayed. It looks like a brand-new kitchen honestly,” O’Neal said.

He said the state inspector, who finally cleared the restaurant to reopen, was extremely thorough in her inspections of the restaurant.

“I think she probably gives the restaurant a push that they probably needed,” said O’Neal, who added management has brought in new pest control and is taking steps to ensure the same violations don’t happen again.

“Now, we have new protocols and new regiments and now there are new checklists for everything.”

Despite his disappointment over all the violations, Bernie Krotz and his wife decided to give Johnny Grits another shot.

“If they have everything cleaned up, maybe it’s a lesson learned.”

Johnny Gritts was not the only restaurant shut down last week.  

Records show Cristianos Pizza and Pasta was also temporarily closed. The two share the same building, one of the oldest in New Port Richey.

You can view the full list of restaurants shut down by the state last week here.

.Beau Zimmer is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. You can also email restaurants you want Beau to check out to redalert@wtsp.com 

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