PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — A popular Mexican restaurant has reopened after state health inspectors shut it down due to serious health code violations.
Santa Fe’ Mexican Grill was shut down March 1 with 15 violations, 6 of which were considered high priority.
The inspector reported finding small flies in the kitchen, a temperature violation on the shredded cheese, cooked rice and refried beans, along with raw chorizo meat stored right over the onions and cut tomatoes in the cooler.
The inspector also reported finding the employee hand washing sink and soap not available, and documented 136 rodent droppings throughout the kitchen, near a microwave and the sugar packets and more on shelving in the dish room.
The inspector returned the following day only to find more rodent droppings all around the bar.
“You don’t have to tell me anymore,” said a shocked Mari-Ellen Sheldon from the parking lot. “I’m not eating here!”
Customers were especially concerned about the reported rodents.
“Maybe outside by the dumpster, but not inside the facility” said Sheldon. “That’s unacceptable.”
Angela Purdy was shocked by the rodent droppings in the dish room.
“Dishes are very important,” she said. “Oh my God! You can get some kind of disease!”
A state inspector eventually cleared Santa Fe’ Mexican Grill to reopen on March 2, so 10News stopped in Monday morning to check on conditions a week later.
“Everything in the restaurant is clean,” said an employee who described herself as the on-duty person-in-charge. “Everything is perfect.”
When we asked for permission to take a look in the kitchen, another employee came out and asked us to leave, also refusing to show a copy of their latest inspection report as required under Florida law.
“No. You cannot see that without an order. We might have one but we cannot give you one,” said the second employee who did not provide her name.
We were able to look up Santa Fe’s inspection report on-line where we found a history of similar problems including reports of rodent droppings dating back to last summer.
The state has now warned the restaurant to fix large holes in the roof and cement walls to prevent pests from getting inside.
Until they see new clean inspections, Purdy won’t be back.
“After hearing that… no.”
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