Blue Ribbons for 43 local restaurants

Forty-three Mesa County food establishments will be honored with Blue Ribbon awards today for meeting every demand of health inspections.

Awards are at 3 p.m. in Grand Junction City Hall’s auditorium.

The Mesa County Health Department has given Blue Ribbon Awards to local restaurants, bakeries, concession operations and other food retailers for 20 years. Each winner had to avoid all potential violations on a health and food safety inspection list during each visit a health department inspector made to an establishment in 2011 to earn the award. Those violations can range from bugs in a kitchen or having food heated to improper temperatures to having a dented can or having a drinking cup sitting out without a lid.

This year, the health department expanded the awards to include nonprofit organizations and no-fee organizations such as schools, hospitals and charitable organizations. The expansion allowed 14 District 51 schools to earn a Blue Ribbon this year, as well as Life Academy, Rainbow Children’s Center, The Oaks and Salvation Army Hospitality Center.

Six full-service establishments also took home the award this year, as well as 19 limited-menu fast food restaurants, pizzerias, coffee shops, hotel eateries, bakeries and sandwich shops. J’s Philly Steaks and Hoagies Owner Jason Fenton said his staff works hard and goes through health department training to learn the best techniques to run a clean operation. The eatery at 936 North Ave., Suite 100, will be one of today’s Blue Ribbon winners.

“I’ve worked hard for it. I felt pretty good about it,” Fenton said of learning he was among the 43 winners.

Jonny Thuma, manager of Chipotle Mexican Grill at 2504 U.S. Highway 6&50, Suite 300, said the franchise’s health and safety standards are higher than the health department’s. He said he’s “stoked” Chipotle won the Blue Ribbon this year.

“We’re always constantly cleaning all the time,” Thuma said.

Not every business passed health inspections with flying colors in 2011. Visits from inspectors can range from one or none in a year to six or more, depending on what health inspectors find. During those visits in 2011, health inspectors found 12 local food retailers had 10 or more critical violations. Critical violations are those that are related directly to foodborne illnesses.

Lil’ Guidos, 569 32 Road, Suite 3C, had the highest tally of critical violations in 2011, at 17. The pizzeria’s manager, Denise, who did not want to give her last name, said Lil’ Guidos changed its management in June, after five of the violations were recorded. She said the 12 violations recorded in August have been addressed.

“We talked with the health inspector and cleared up any equipment issues, which was most of the problem,” she said, adding the restaurant has all-new staff since last June.

Fly’n Roosters, 200 W. Grand Ave., No. 5, was one of four restaurants that recorded 16 critical violations over the course of 2011. Manager Amber Robinson said her restaurant also changed management last summer and has had better inspections since then.

“We’ve made it our effort to work hard toward that,” she said of better inspections. “We’re focusing on making sure everything is clean and we’re cleaning every day like we should be, washing hands, checking food temps.”

The split between Blue Ribbon Awards and places with 10 or more critical violations was 27 to 25 last year. This year, the 43 Blue Ribbon Awards far outnumbered the dozen food retailers with 10 or more critical violations.


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