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The Strand Smokehouse, Bakeway NYC Closed by Health Department, Owner Claims Unfair Treatment

Photo: Queens Post

Nov. 5, 2018 By Christian Murray

A long-time Astoria restaurateur who has been at odds with the Department of Health in recent years had two of his eateries shut down Friday.

The Strand Smokehouse, located at 25-27 Broadway, and Bakeway NYC, just three doors down at 25-21 Broadway, were both closed by the Health Department on Nov. 2 after an inspector was denied access onto the premises, the city said.

Tommy Visilis, the owner of the eateries, said that the city shut him down unfairly and now 20 employees are out of work.

The issue, he said, began when he denied an inspector access to his back shed behind Bakeway NYC on Thursday morning.  He argued that the shed is used solely by The Strand, and that it shouldn’t be part of the Bakeway inspection.

“I told the inspector that my lease states that the shed belongs to the Strand,” Visilis said, who added that he uses the shed to store dry goods, napkins and other items for the smokehouse.

“They wouldn’t accept what I was saying, so I refused to be inspected,” Visilis said.

Inspectors came back the next day, and closed both establishments down.

The department, however, said both establishments were shut down because they share a kitchen.

This is not the first time Visilis’ establishments have been shut down for denying an inspector access. Both establishments—and a third one on 30th Avenue that he owns– were closed in 2014 for three weeks after he refused them access to Bakeway.

The restaurateur claims the health department told him to dispose of all the stored meat during the Friday shutdown, leading Visilis to pour bleach all over the meats.

The Strand Smokehouse

In response to the shutdown, Visilis’ attorney filed suit that same day against the Department of Health in Queens County court alleging that he was unfairly closed down.

The suit also requested that the restaurants be allowed to stay open until a hearing was held.

But the judge, according to Visilis, denied his request, and the case will now go back to court later this month.

Shortly after the denial, Visilis started printing signs that read, “All we ask DOH is that you treat us equally!!!” The signs went up outside both restaurants Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Visilis is waiting on a letter from the Department of Health that will set a date for him to have an OATH hearing with the city. The hearing, he said, is likely to be around the same time as the separate court case on the matter. He is uncertain as to how both will go.

“I have told my employees to look for work elsewhere since I don’t know when or whether I can reopen,” he said. “I don’t want to feel responsible for them.”

Photo: Queens Post

 

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82 Comments

T. Vasilis from the Bizarro World

Come to my Bakeway in the Bizarro World. Here restaurants with a C rating are very clean. Imagine what my D rating means!! Cockroach parts in every bite. I don’t even have to bribe the government officials to stay open!




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A

I went to the Strand once. I was told they didn’t have a kitchen which I thought was strange and that everything was cooked off premises. Why doesn’t the owner just put in a kitchen and keep it clean?




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Monroe

That’s actually not true at all. According to the stats, most businesses that get bad grades wind up cleaning up their act (pun intended). But this doofus insists on playing the victim, being a thug, and putting the blame on the agency that is protecting the public. This guy needs to have both businesses closed for good.




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A

Yay, that’s two more shuddered stores on this block. If the people in the community don’t start supporting these businesses and nitpicking for a petty things, we will have nothing on this block soon.




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Skip Seglipse

Shuddered? Are the stores scared?

Or did you mean shuttered? Based on the poor grammar and use of the English language, this is probably a fake post by the owner of the businesses.




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Montry

LOL. I was thinking the same thing, Skip. Losing point for having unsanitary conditions is hardly being petty. And I doubt that the other wonderful (and CLEAN) establishments up and down that block have anything to worry about as they respect their customers instead of putting up retarded signs.




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A

Far from it Skipper . I have been patronizing both the strand smokehouse and Bakeway for the past few years and have no affiliation with these businesses.

Sorry I couldn’t afford college and only have my GED so my grammar is not up to your standards. Please don’t judge me.

But It seems you’re really focused on my grammar and not the point which is the block has A lot of businesses on the verge of going under . Of the 8 or so stores on the west side of this block four of the spaces are vacant now . So if your wish and the 20 other thumbs down my comment got got is to see you all of the stores vacant, maybe you will get your wish. Personally I prefer to support smaller businesses but it looks like starbucks and Dunkin will be the only options for you Skipper.




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Monty

Not all businesses thrive. But to put the blame for “shuddered” stores on government corruption is asinine. The health department is helping to keep food safe for consumers. The owners of Bakeway/Strand don’t care for their customers or employees. They just love to cut corners, unless they are spending money on a big sign.

Besides, you are not being honest. There are no “shuddered” stores on Broadway. There are two storefronts that have big stickers in the windows that say, “CLOSED BY ORDER OF DEPT. OF HEALTH” but those are justified.




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Maleek S

Nah, because the others on the block know to be cool with the Department of Health instead of acting the victim. If they got a roach and get a B, they clean it all up and get an A. But this sloppy dude just play like they out after him and he put up a retarded sign that everybody be laughing at.




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J

Been to both establishments many many times. While It’s easy to nitpick, I found both extremely clean and sufficient.
Flies, bugs, even rodents is in unavoidable part of the food business.

If the community doesn’t get together and support these businesses the block will become a ghost town.




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Anonymous

Clearly there is an issue here. That being said doh inspectors can be pricks and often can’t be reasoned with. Shutting down any business and putting people out of work seems alittle unreasonable. They should be allowed to open with conditions that both business’s be fully inspected and comply with doh regulations.




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K

I think we should put a nanny cam and monitor this shed. Maybe the shed is his secret smoker. Maybe the shed should get a seprate grade is a solution. Or get rid if this mystery shed .

Just some suggestions.




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edward thomas conroy

i guess you don’t understand logic.if the inspector is there to inspect the bakeway establishment then he should make sure he inspects only that establishment-what a bunch of bullshit by unelected govt agency’s tommy c




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Drew

Just out of curiosity, what happens when the other business gets inspected? Do they volunteer that they have a shed at another location that should be included in the inspection? Or is this shed just supposed to be in the abyss and never ever get inspected? Just logically speaking, something about this arrangement just doesn’t add up, the shed is storage for a restaurant and should be privy to inspection one way or the other. The owner appears to be attempting a roundabout way to keep it from being inspected. I don’t know why, maybe there’s something to hide, or maybe inspections are just a hassle that he wants to avoid. But as a consumer, something just doesn’t quite add up.




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D

OK…. If the shed DOES NOT belong to both Strand and Bakeway, WHY is the owner using it to store the dry products?? If he is using it to store things that he uses for the restaurants, he HAS TO let DOH to inspect the shed. What if those napkins, plastic spoons & forks are stored with rats and cockroaches?? DOH gave him a warning in 2014 when the owner used profanity in telling the inspector to leave and threw the inspector’s equipment bag at him. ( they had to closed both Bakeway and Strand for 20days) https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140507/astoria/strand-smokehouse-closed-for-20-days-after-owner-blocks-inspector/
And he did it again. So DOH has shut down those places. Why did the owner act like that this time again even though he had a warning already and knew this time DOH will shut down his restaurants?? If he really cares about the community and his employees, act smart.




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Jonathon

If you read the story it tells you it’s for the Strand. If they were there to inspect Bakeway then they have NO legal right to check it. Learn the laws and read the story completely before you decide to comment




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Skip Seglipse

Except that the guy uses shared facilities for both places and always has. He brought this upon himself by being cheap and not acquiring or building separate facilities for each business.




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Georgia

You’re wrong, he can say whatever he wants about the shed belonging to strand which is two stores down, the shed is on the bakeway property in the back yard therefore it’s part of bakeway , and DOH has to be allowed to inspect it! He causes this on himself, if you got nothing to hide, let DOH inspect it. He should move the shed to the backyard of strand if it will be used for strand and not bakeway. Methinks he was storing meat in the shed and knew he would have been hit with a dozen of violations in the thousands. MHO




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Monroe

So just because he (barely) passed previous inspections means it is a sign that the DOH is bullying him because he failed *this* one?
I made the mistake of going into his establishment Bakeway one day and was curious about why there was no restaurant rating in the window. I asked one of the kids behind the counter and he said that they needed to get Scotch tape since it kept coming off, but he assured me that the rating was an A. I went online and saw that the business was actually rated a B.
Not only does this guy run a filthy establishment, but he is dishonest to boot, getting young kids to lie for him.




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Josh

I’ve been going there for five years , At least 3 to 5 days a week. So have many of the people I work with . I find the place to be very clean and the coffee to be excellent. I don’t know why you would call this place is filthy. I have never noticed this and I’m here all the time. I’ve gotten to know many of the staff there and they’re super nice people as well . Hope the place opens back up soon because there’s not a lot of options on this block for a good coffee.




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Monroe

When I see flies landing on the muffins, “filthy” is one of the first adjectives that comes to mind. When I walk into the toilet and see piss on the ground, and then go two days later, and the same piss puddle is there, the same adjective comes into my head. You might have a lower threshold but thankfully the health department doesn’t.




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Kevin

Maybe it’s not really “animal” meat he’s serving, hence the mystery shed….DUN DUN DUN!!!




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Nurse

Why did he pour bleach on the meats… Man… You people are crazy to go back and eat at this place. If there was nothing to hide, who cares who the she’d belongs too? Open your eyes folks, sometimes it is the NYC, but what were they hissing so badly to sacrifice his employees making a living.




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Charles Samek

I am independent in this matter. If they want to see the shed, let them. Big deal.😐




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Jimmy

It is protocol for Food inspectors to force restaurants to pour bleach on raw meets if they are found to be kept below a certain temperature (I believe it is between 34 to 36 degree F). With that said, it is quite hard for that to happen unless pure negligence is involved.

Look up Strand Smokehouse and Bakeway at the NYC food inspection site. The fact that they were allowed to stay open from their previous inspections is surprising. they had one inspection on March 2018 that racked up 62 points of violations… and it also shows they have repeated violations for lack of Food Protection Certificates by the staff. I wouldn’t eat there if they are allowed to re-open.




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Tedatos Molakos

This is harassment from the government burocrasy. He is a hard working immigrant and gets tossed out. We need more people like Trump to keep this from happening again.




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Jenna

The DOH is protecting customers as they should. I’ve have bad (as in spoiled) food at Bakeway before. Stuff is stale, poorly made, the place has a weird smell. There’s something fishy about how food is stored and made. DOH is right.




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Kev

Hes hiding your mother. What’s wrong with you people with these conspiracy theories. DOH or DMV or any other agency is just another name for tax. Car registration is a tax. Crossing the tunnel is a tax. City is taxing businesses with impunity in the name of public safety. Smarten up people. Next will be you.




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g

its about time somebody stands up to DOH maybe some body should do a inspection on them and see how corrupt there are




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Jessica

I’m assuming most of the people negatively commenting have never owned a business. Both of these establishments have always been empecably clean when I’ve been a patron there. I’ve always received great service at both places and I was a regular at both. The food was always good at the strand and the entertainment and staff were always amazing. Let’s rally together and support our small business owners instead of trying to tear them down based upon something the crooked system has done to them.




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J's

Your assumption makes zero sense. How could this establishment receive a grade letter “A” and be in business for so long if they stored food in this manner? Don’t take that bet to Vegas, cuz its a losing one pal.




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Mike Doyle

Most my life lived in California, must go back home from time to time to Astoria, to get in touch with the people, Q train and good eatin. Keep Astoria, proud for I’m proud of being a native Astorian!




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Yassou Baby!

Mike, you’ve been gone from Astoria for too long – the Q train doesn’t stop here anymore, and hasn’t in about 3 years…




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Senaida Rodriguez

I am a employee of Bakeway for four years! There is nothing hidden the the shed in the back. The shed contains plastic spoons, forks, napkins and paper goods stored for the StrandSmokehouse. Nothing more nothing less. It’s all about respect “They wouldn’t accept what I was saying, so I refused to be inspected.” Stated by the Boss. It’s simple! Now the Strand and Bakeway is shut down because they did not like the fact that the DOH was not correct saying the shed belong to bakeway they felt the need to destroy the buisness. They are already being unfair why should they have the right to inspect the premises when they are saying the shed belongs to Bakeway when clearly it doesn’t. The owner clearly had documentation to prove it and still the DOH was not having it. The DOH over used there power by pouring bleach on very expensive meat. The DOH is very “petty” and the inspectors clearly needs to be re-evaluated. Very unprofessional and now costumers think there is something health related with food and that is not the case. If there was something hidden we would not have been a successful buisness for so many years and opened. This is an example of someone who is fighting for respect in the good industry against the DOH who are abusing their power. Now both businesses are left without work because the DOH was offended there assumptions of the shed were incorrect!




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Mike

So you’re okay with not getting a paycheck so that your boss can prove a point about getting respect?




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Jonathon

All you junior sleuths with your theories, it is laughable, learn the rules before crucifying someone. The DOH is only allowed to inspect the space they are sent to inspect. If a space inside the inspected restaurant does not belong to the restaurant the inspector is not allowed to inspect that area. So the owner of Bakeway was within his right to deny access. Even if he was keeping the bodies of dead hookers in there.




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Drew

I doubt that’s true. If it were, what would stop every restaurant from simply saying this closet or that area belongs to some other entity, keep it from being inspected, and then keeping whatever they want/need to hide in there every time an inspector shows up?

It would be a massive loophole to the spirit of the law.




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Jonathon.

They have to show proof, letter from landlord saying that the space is not part of said restaurant.




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Raf

Nope that’s not true, they still have the right to see it. but u wouldn’t be fined for anything found inside, as long as it’s true that nothing there pertains to the store.




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Eric

Not much sympathy here. Every restauranteur in the city knows to play nice with DOH and it seems like the owner here is fixated on doing the exact opposite. Wish he’d spend less time fighting with DOH and more time figuring out how to prepare food as both Bakeway and Strand have inedible food. Looking forward to whatever opens next in that fantastic space.




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Monroe

I agree. I wonder how much this guy spent on those two big signs. He was too cheap to buy something as simple as shades to keep out the sun. Or soap for the bathroom. If there was an issue with the shed, that’s because that is what the inspectors were looking at this time. This dump could have been shut down for any number of reasons.

I too am looking forward to a new business opening up, one which is owned by someobe who would strive to get passing inspections rather than to play the victim.




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Jonathon

So just so we are clear none of you ever fought a ticket?!? I know you to are not to be counted on if the government starts to take away our rights bit by bit




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Monroe

If you speed, you get a ticket. If you park where you’re not supposed to, you get a ticket. If you have mouse dung, flies, don’t cook meat properly, you get shut down. This has nothing to do with government oppression, so take a breath there and try to stay calm.

I checked the health department website and found up to 50 points of violations for one restaurant alone. I’m not sure how many points are deducted for that really nifty sign, but I don’t think it’s that much. He should have just put the money and effort into running a clean establishment, like so many wonderful places up and down Broadway, instead of blaring his unfair treatment for all of Astoria to see and hear (and possibly laugh at).

But you keep shouting about the government stealing our rights if that makes you feel good.




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Josh

A large number of establishments have been getting shut down recently. Some of my friends that own restaurants tell me these inspectors walk in with an ax to grind. These people need to protect the public, but must have respect for hard working business owners that must contend with high rents, high expenses and an oppressive business environment.




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Christopher S

Unfair ? Getting your customers sick is unfair … If you got nothing to hide then raise a fence between the 2 properties to reflect who owns what and give the inspector access !




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J

The DOH has unfairly targeted people. He’s just trying to make a living and provide jobs for the community!




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Kenny .J

Yes. Make a living and provide jobs despite the cost ,right? If a couple of people die or get really sick , it’s no big deal right ?
Don’t let a little thing like food safety get in the way of commerce because nothing should impead the pursuit of the all mighty dollar , right?




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Sal

The owner is leaving out the part where he physically attacked a DOH inspector a few years ago.




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Jills

According to the DOH website “The Health Department conducts unannounced inspections of restaurants at least once a year. Inspectors check for compliance in food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene and vermin control. Each violation of a regulation gets a certain number of points. At the end of the inspection, the inspector totals the points, and this number is the restaurant’s inspection score—the lower the score, the better the Grade”. With that said, I’d like to how the DOH was able to shut down two businesses (directly impacting the livelihood of its employees and community) without providing a valid reason? The DOH has clearly demonstrated a “use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants”. That’s the definition of bullying and that’s exactly what the DOH has done. The DOH has unfairly used its “power” without a valid or justifiable reason. This behavior does not protect the public as they claim. In fact, they are doing nothing more than hurting the workers of a thriving community.




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Anonymous

both establishments were shut down because they share a kitchen. That is not allowed, especially traveling from one restaurant to the next. Also this is not his first time having issues with the DOH, This is not the first time Visilis’ establishments have been shut down for denying an inspector access. Both establishments—and a third one on 30th Avenue that he owns– were closed in 2014 for three weeks after he refused them access to Bakeway. Seems that he has a problem with authority.




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JB

The reason is simple: they were denied access to carry out the full inspection – and therefore could not reliably sign off on compliance.

Honestly, it isn’t that difficult to pass a health inspection. (And yes, I have worked in the industry and have been on-site during such inspections.) All this indicates is that the owner isn’t capable of running multiple establishments that meet food safety standards. Who CARES which property the shed belongs to if it’s up to code?

Not to mention the fact that he “doesn’t want to be responsible” for his employees. He’s gaslighting the DOH for their loss of work, because he doesn’t want to comply. Forget the health codes; I won’t revisit the Strand again based on the way he treats his people.




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Anonymous

“how the DOH was able to shut down two businesses without providing a valid reason”

They provided a reason: the two businesses share a kitchen.




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Sara Ross

If the lease says who the shed belongs to then the inspector was wrong and another small business owner was the victim of city bureaucracy and incompetent and corrupt workers. Where is the local politician to fight for this man and his business? I hope he gets to reopen. It’s not right.




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Giacomo Sevic

I don’t understand why he just didn’t allow them to inspect his shed? Something he has to hide in there? Something just doesn’t add up especially when it seems there has been an issue with this “shed” in the past.




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Anonymous

Mr. Visilis is solely responsible for this. He has no business to denied access. Should pay his workers until and when open with a passing inspection.




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El GATO NeGRO

He has a right to deny the DOH access to a site that does not legally belong to the business under review!




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Elle

No he doesn’t, if it’s on the property it can be inspected. And if they don’t use it open it up and prove you don’t.




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jenasoriat

This guy has some brain problems. Even if he gets his places reopened, I will not be eating there. If he’s hiding something from the Health Inspectors, and it seems like he is, it cannot be good.




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BBQ Fan in Astoria

John Brown is Great BBQ, excellent staff and great craft beers on tap. Has backyard too.




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A

welcome to the oppressive NYC. Like other government authorities with a little bit of power, they feel is necessary to stifle freedoms. Ever been to a nightclub with an a$$hole bouncer.. same concept.




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JD

Clearly, he had something to hide otherwise he would have let the inspector in. And it’s BS, all of the food for The Strand is made at Bakeway and then transported through the backyard to The Strand to be kept in heaters. When they first opened, there were so many complaints about food poisoning- there was a breakdown in the keeping the food hot at some point, which is why I imagine the owner was so reluctant to let the inspector see the shed. I bet you food is stored out there in a manner that is not up to code.




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ANnonymous

I doubt that. The place wouldn’t be in business as long as it has if that was the case. It’s the principal folks. The DOH has to be consistent with how they apply their own rules. If the shed isn’t part of the location they are trying to inspect then why not just come back to inspect the other location and it’s adjoining shed? Open your mind to see things from both sides.




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Jill

If they came back to inspect it whatever they need to find would be gone not allowing the inspector to correct the situation, thus why inspections are unannounced. And to clarify for everyone if it’s on your property it can be inspected.




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