Eateries working to address violations

Jesse Bugielski fills an order at the Palisade Cafe on Wednesday. The Palisade eatery was one of 27 food establishments in Mesa County that received at least 10 critical violations last year.


What is a critical violation?
The Mesa County Health Department defines a critical violation as an item related directly to foodborne illness.

The Health Department annually conducts two regular inspections of each licensed food establishment. An establishment’s total number of critical violations comes from those two inspections plus any follow-up inspections.

The Health Department said violations recorded at the time of an inspection often are corrected on-the-spot prior to the inspector leaving the establishment.

Gil San Nicolas has been the head chef and kitchen manager at the Palisade Cafe; and Grill for a mere four months, but that doesn’t mean he’s new to the restaurant business.

San Nicolas helped open a Denny’s in Montrose and spent 10 years working there as the head cook and trainer. So, when the Palisade Cafe; and Grill tallied 15 critical violations last year — tied for fourth-most among the more than 650 food facilities Mesa County health inspectors check annually — San Nicolas knew it could be a potential black mark he had to erase.

He claims the changes he has made have done just that.

The Palisade eatery at 113 Third St. was one of 27 food establishments in the county that received at least 10 critical violations last year, which is 10 more than last year. Cheros Hotdogs, a mobile food vendor, was cited for 18 violations, the most of any facility inspected by the Mesa County Health Department.

The average number of critical violations at local eateries last year was 2.62, according to Darleen McKissen, environmental health specialist with the Health Department.

Inspectors pay at least two surprise visits to food establishments in the county every year, checking food temperature control, worker hygiene, food-protection and food-handling practices, food storage and equipment cleaning and sanitization.

San Nicolas attributed Palisade Cafe; and Grill’s violations to improperly trained kitchen staff. He said he has a new staff in place and stays on top of them to try to ensure there are no problems.

“That kitchen is about as spotless as it has ever been,” he said.

After being cited for six critical violations during a June 28 inspection, the restaurant had just three in two follow-up inspections in July.

The International House of Pancakes, 2420 U.S. Highway 6&50, was docked for 14 critical violations during five inspections last year, but General Manager Tiffini Simonton said most of them were corrected while the inspector was at the restaurant.

She claimed many of the violations related more to faulty equipment than improper or unsafe food handling. She said the restaurant consistently scored high on operational assessments performed quarterly by a private firm.

Brandi Gambrell, assistant manager of Sbarro at Mesa Mall, attributed many of the eatery’s 13 critical violations to employee turnover and old equipment that wasn’t keeping food at the correct temperatures. She said Sbarro has a good staff in place now and has fixed its walk-in cooler.

“We do very much plan on getting 100 percent on our next health inspection,” Gambrell said.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 595, 1674 U.S. Highway 50, received 11 violations in 2010, something manager Deanna Phillips said she and her staff have worked hard to rectify.

She said she hired employees to help run the club, replacing volunteers, and bought new kitchen equipment.

“We intend to keep our violations to zero and keep working for the health of our membership and our community,” she said.

Bamboo City, 2472 F Road, Suite 2, received 10 violations. During a June 8 inspection, food on the Mongolian grill was observed above 41 degrees, and those items were moved to a cooler, according to the Health Department. Several of the other violations were “silly stuff,” said Kevin Truong, who helps run the family business.

“My dad cooks in front of the grill all day, and he had his drink on a shelf,” Truong said. “Some of it was a machine that broke that we had fixed. Most of the stuff that we violated we’ve fixed.”

Famous Dave’s, 2440 U.S. Highway 6&50, also had 10 violations. One of those violations included fruit flies in bottles of Chivas, Glen Livet and Seagrams during a Jan. 15 visit. The bottles were voluntarily discarded.

“We understand that serving safe food is our number one priority,” said Tom Church, the restaurant’s general manager.

Golden Corral, 1100 Independent Ave., received 10 violations, most of which revolved around food temperatures. During a Jan. 25 inspection, a Health Department inspector observed multiple items above 41 degrees, and tuna salad and boiled eggs were voluntarily discarded.

General Manager Amanda Hubbard said the violations did not stem from items on the buffet line.

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Staff writers Amy Hamilton and Emily Anderson contributed to this report.


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