The Northborouth Board of Health voted unanimously on Wednesday night to revoke the food license for , an Asian restaurant located at 259 West Main St.
"I have no confidence in this restaurant at all—none," said Glenn French, board member. "I don’t think they can straighten their act out. I don’t see any other arguments to be made. They had their chance, they had their opportunity, for good or bad, they had it, and they blew it. I gave ‘em a chance. I was overly optimistic that I thought this thing would straighten itself out. It’s the operators fault that this happened with the restaurant. It’s been a long time coming and it’s not a surprise, and I don’t have any kind words to put to it."
The decisive, stern words came from French, who on May 15 advocated at a previous revocation hearing that Great Wall be given another chance, provided that food expert Dr. Sam Wong direct the restaurant into following the proper standards and procedures. On May 15, the board had voted 2-1 to allow Great Wall to reopen, with the understanding that it would be closed and face a revocation hearing if any critical violations were found.
Within three weeks, three critical violations were found.
Great Wall was closed, for the fifth time since opening three years ago, on May 30 when Health Agent Jamie Terry conducted an unannounced inspection of the restaurant. She found issues with the temperature of the food cooler, as well as sanitation in the dishwasher.
The restaurant has faced a multitude of hearings and numerous violations, many of them that occurred repeatedly.
"On May 30, I conducted an unannounced routine inspection," said Terry. "The beginning went well, and then I came across the 'Coke Cooler,' which holds the appetizer products. The refrigerator was reading at 50 degrees and it's supposed to be 41 or below. There were three food items found in the cooler between 49 and 52 degrees: boneless spare ribs, raw beef teryaki and chicken fingers."
Great Wall, which was represented by Dr. Wong at the hearing, did not dispute the violations, but indicated that the food cooler could fluctuate in temperature when opened and closed. A system log, which Dr. Wong constructed to help direct employees keep proper tabs on procedures and systems, indicated that the cooler was at 37 degrees consistently.
The log was maintained by manager Qen Quin Lin, known as Carol.
The board questioned the validity of the log, particularly when Terry pointed out that it had been already filled out through 3:30 p.m. on the day she arrived, which was at 2:45 p.m.
"How do you say the log is being kept accurately when the health inspector shows up at quarter of three and it's already filled out to 3:30?" said French.
Board member Dilip Jain added, "It can't be reading 37 degrees at all times and then Jamie goes in and it's 50 degrees. There is no explanation for that. It doesn't happen. If it's reading 37 degrees at all times, then they're not opening the door and taking food out. So it's been logged in at 37 degrees, and it's their bad luck that Jamie comes in and it's 50 degrees? Come on, we're all intelligent people here."
Wong also said that employees told him the strips used to test the sanitizer levels were giving "false readings."
Terry said three different test strips were used by three different manufacturers at the inspection, all giving "very low" sanitation readings on the dishwasher. At the hearing, Carol said that there were no customers in the dining room on the day of the inspection, and the dishwasher was not needed.
"While I was there, there were two patrons in the dining room," said Terry.
Noncritical violations of the May 30 inspection included a hair found on crab rangoon; Terry added that it could "happen anywhere" and the employees were wearing hairnets. She also saw two fruitflies, also not uncommon during any restaurant inspection, she said.
"I think it's the users of the system that are faulty," said French. "I don't think it's the system that is faulty. They are on probation and they have people come in once a week and they are 'this close' and still this of all things happens? Had Jamie not gone in there, someone could have eaten this food. It's a real problem. The town has always tried to accomodate businesses, because it's important to grow a town, but you can't grow a town by serving food that could poison someone. I'm sorry."
French, who moved to revoke the license, was seconded by board member Dierdre O'Connor.
"Public health is to the benefit of the greatest number of people," said O'Connor, "and I just find this really regrettable that we have to do this."