Philly closed 29 restaurants in Feb., but let others operate without a license

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The city closed dozens of restaurants in February and threatened to revoke their licenses. Yet it allowed several restaurants without licenses (and with serious health violations) to continue to operate. Among those eateries included a McDonald's on Adams Ave. and a Subway and Burger King on Rising Sun Ave. The Oriental Chinese Restaurant on South Broad St. (upper right) was closed for 48 hours for a host of serious citations.

There's a bit of a paradox at the Philadelphia Health Department.

If a restaurant fails a health inspection, the city threatens to take away its license to operate. But if a restaurant operates without a license, that doesn't mean the city will shut it down. 

In February, the city discovered missing licenses at least five times, including at  a McDonald's, a Burger King and a Subway. 

The McDonald's franchise in the 700 block of Adams Avenue, was cited for mouse feces that accumulated on shelves and equipment surfaces. But that didn't lead to the restaurant being shut down while cleaning up. 

The Subway in the Rising Sun Plaza Shopping Center, reportedly wasn't keeping its meatballs hot, setting the stage for illness-causing bacteria to reproduce.  Lukewarm food is never enough to shut a restaurant down in Philly, but savvy diners might want to know about it. .

The Burger King, on the 5900 block of Rising Sun Avenue,  was cited for tepid food, plus employees who didn't bother to wear hair restraints. Neither offense is enough to close the place down.

But according to former officials with the city's law department, operating without a license  is cause to drop the hammer, just as drivers are not permitted to operate their cars without a license. 

"The food code requires that a restaurant have a license," said former senior attorney with the city soliciter's office, Mark Zecca. "The Department of Health is responsible to see that the food establishment is compliant with the food code. The lack of a license requires closure. "

The Health Department pointed the finger at another city agency.

"We work closely with Licenses and Inspections to ensure that all food establishments are safe. If a restaurant cannot produce an active L&I license at the time of our routine food safety inspections, we alert L&I to have them check their database and start enforcement proceedings if needed," Health spokesman James Garrow wrote in an email.

"It is impossible for our inspectors to confirm, during our food safety inspections, whether or not a restaurant is properly licensed. The note on the three inspection reports you sent was made in error," he continued.

Health does have the power to act on its own, according to its 2015 agreement with L&I. Indeed, last month four smaller restaurants that did not have licenses were closed temporarily, but they all had other health-related citations as well .

The following eateries — inspected between Feb. 1 and Feb. 24 —  were temporarily closed for health code violations or allowed to continue to operate without licenses. 

Phu Fha Thai Restaurant

6190 RIDGE AVE 19128

24 violations, 9 serious. 

Food contact surfaces, prep tables, and cleaned utensils soiled with mouse feces;  floors need cleaning throughout due to accumulated mouse feces, food debris and dirt; defective refrigerators not keeping food cold; no soap or paper towels at kitchen hand sink. Ordered to close for minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 24. 

United by Blue

3421 WALNUT ST 19104

Food safety person not present. Agreed to close temporarily Feb. 24. 

Denise's Soul Food 

1430 N BROAD ST 19121

4 violations, 3 serious. 

Employee did not use soap or warm water to wash hands; food held at hazardous temperatures; mouse droppings in driving compartment of truck. Agreed to close temporarily Feb. 24. 

Torres Mini Market

5549 LANSDOWNE AVE 19131

18 violations, 6 serious. 

No hot water; uncovered and uncooked bacon; food held at hazardous temperatures; employee medicines in prep area. Agreed to close temporarily Feb. 24. 

McDonald's #01367

710 ADAMS AVE 19120

23 violations, 8 serious.

Operating without a food license, no record of being asked to close. Accumulated mouse feces on shelves, equipment surfaces, food prep area and basement; residue and debris on dining room table and seats. Inspected Feb. 22. 

Jonalis Grocery Store Inc

315 N 52ND ST 19139

34 violations, 12 serious.

Management lacked basic knowledge regarding food safety; Food safety certified person not present; insufficient hot water; no soap or handtowels in restroom; insufficient hand washing; expired baby food for sale; food not protected from contamination; employees not wearing hair restraints; single-use gloves not used. Court hearing scheduled for Feb. 28. Asked to close temporarily on Feb. 22.

Bythrow Deli

7601 TORRESDALE AVE 19136

11 violations, 1 serious.

Dark mouse feces; insufficient refrigeration; food safety certified person not present. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 22.

Family Dollar Store #10581

4061 LANCASTER AVE 19104

5 violations, 2 serious.

Gnawed snack items on retail shelves; fresh mice feces on food items, shelves and floors. Ordered to close for minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 20.

Mill Creek Tavern

4202 CHESTER AVE 19104

9 violations, 2 serious.

Mouse droppings on microwave cart, shelves and floor perimeters; debris mixed with ice in ice machine; standing water on basement floor. Ordered to close for minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 19.

Family Dollar Store #10581

4061 LANCASTER AVE 19104

5 violations, 2 serious.

Gnawed pet food items on shelves; fresh mice feces on shelves, floors, and food items throughout; general floor cleaning needed through retail space and toilet rooms. Ordered to close for minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 17.

Mill Creek Tavern

4202 CHESTER AVE 19104

21 violations, 6 serious.

Visible evidence of rodent activity throughout; person in charge not on premises; pool of water in basement stinks of sewage; no paper towels or soap at prep area and restroom sinks; uncovered items in walk-in refrigerator; thermometers missing; no cold water at sink; general cleaning needed throughout. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 17.

African Copy Center

5133 BALTIMORE AVE 19143

14 violations, 7 serious.

Operating without a valid food license; insect or rodent contaminated foods; unlabled juices and spices for sale; expired shrimp powder; food held at unsafe temperatures. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 16.

7-Eleven Store 2408-36108A

1 FRANKLIN TOWN BLVD 19103

10 violations, 1 serious.

No running water; employees cannot wash hands, utensils cannot be washed; mouse feces on floors; inadequate refrigeration. Agreed to temporarily close on Feb. 16.

Market Street Bistro

5213 MARKET ST 19139

8 violations, 4 serious.

Mouse feces in box containing onions; evidence of rodent activity in walk-in cooler, shelves, storage areas, and floor perimeters. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 16.

Caribbean Soul Food

5126 MARKET ST 19139

30 violations, 9 serious.

No hot water; food safety certified person not present; live roaches in trap and crawling on wall; mouse feces on floor perimeters and in spice cabinets; improper handwashing; no hot water at prep sink; grilling outside in unsanitary area; fish thawing in standing water; unapproved cooking equipment; general cleaning needed throughout. Ordered to cease cooking food outdoors. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 15.

Market Street Bistro

5213 MARKET ST 19139

1 violations, 1 serious.

Food safety certified person not present. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 15.

Subway

5675 RISING SUN AVE 19120

16 violations, 5 serious.

Operating without a food license, no record of being asked to close temporarily. No soap at sink in restroom; meatballs held at hazardous temperatures; thermometers missing from refrigerators;  insufficient sanitizer; person in charged lacked knowledge of food borne illnesses. Inspected  Feb. 14. 

648 ROXBOROUGH AVE 19128

18 violations, 2 serious.

Mouse infestation; food safety certified person not present; uncovered pierogies in freezer; mouse droppings on floors, shelves, and containers. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 14.

Sunnyside-up Breakfast and Lunch

5948 MARKET ST 19107

12 violations, 4 serious.

Food safety person not present; empty paper towel dispenser; live and dead roaches under counter; foul smelling water in basement. Agreed to temporarily close on Feb. 14.

Erkies Restaurant

6505 LANSDOWNE AVE 19151

21 violations, 7 serious.

Food safety certified person not present; employees did not know foodborne illnesses or symptoms; employee did not wash hands between changing tasks; food not protected from contamination; fresh mice feces on shelves, on floors, and behind cook stations; employees not wearing hair restraints; general cleaning needed. Agreed to temporarily close on Feb. 14.

Family Dollar Store #10581

4061 LANCASTER AVE 19104

8 violations, 3 serious.

Gnawed food items on multiple shelves; fresh mouse feces on food items; no soap in restroom. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 14.

Obimak Enterprise

6723 CASTOR AVE 19149

19 violations, 5 serious.

Operating without a license, no record of being asked to close. No water in restroom; expired baby food for sale; thermometers missing from refrigeration units; roach remains on shelves; dirty restroom surfaces;  unapproved self service station. Inspected Feb. 10.

Meskerem Bar and Restaurant

232 S 45TH ST 19104

25 violations, 7 serious.

Evidence of rodent activity, food safety certified person not present; soap and towels not available in restroom; black residue, pink slime inside ice machine and soda gun; general cleaning needed throughout. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 8.

Bonilla, Jovan /4 Brothers/001709

1988 N 12TH ST 19122

9 violations, 4 serious.

No hot water. Asked to close temporarily on Feb. 8.

Nguyen, Binh Van/ Oriental Fast Food Truck/V-03232

3541 MARKET ST 19142

14 violations, 6 serious.

Food safety certified person did not know about food safety; no hot or cold water; food held at hazardous temperatures. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 8.

R & M Deli & Market

7544 HAVERFORD AVE 19151

1 violation, 1 serious.

Food safety person not present. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 8.

Southern Inn Restaurant

5741 WOODLAND AVE 19143

15 violations, 6 serious.

Food safety certified person not present; employee washed fish in hand sink; liver and peppers stored in same containers; bucket of plaster stored with syrup and sugar; cooking utensils in poor condition; old mouse feces behind ice machine; general cleaning needed throughout kitchen. Agreed to temporarily close on Feb. 7.

New York Food Market and Deli

7207 STENTON AVE 19138

16 violations, 5 serious.

Mouse feces in storage area, repeat violation; accumulation of dirt and debris on floors, repeat violation; no thermometer in refrigerated display case; milk stored at hazardous temperature, repeat violation; accumulated residue on slicer. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 7.

Burger King

5921 RISING SUN AVE 19120

12 violations, 3 serious.

Operating without a license, no record of being asked to close. Clogged handwash sink; food held at hazardous temperatures; employees not wearing hair restraints. Inspected Feb. 7.

Oriental Restaurant

1800 S BROAD ST 19145

29 violations, 10 serious.

Employee seen  coughing and spitting in the food prep area; active sewage leak in basement; no food safety person on premises; employee did not use soap and hot water to wash hands; no soap or towels at sinks; mouse feces in bulk food containers, on cutting board, and food storage shelves; foods held at hazardous temperatures; shrimp thawing at room temperatures; doors not vermin proof. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 7.

Philippine Jeepney Grill

7927 BUSTLETON AVE 19152

22 violations, 8 serious.

Severe mouse and german cockroach infestation; operating without a valid food license;  food contact surfaces contaminated by fresh mouse feces, roach feces, and live roaches throughout the establishment;’ No paper towels in toilet rooms; obstructed sink; raw chicken and pork stored above vegetables;  food held at hazardous temperatures. Ordered to close for a minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 5.

Cesario Super Market Inc

5642 W GIRARD AVE 19131

1 violation, 1 serious.

Food safety person not on premises. Agreed to temporarily close on Feb. 3.

Ardenys Food Market

5601 LORETTO ST 19149

17 violations, 4 serious.

Operating without a license. No record of being asked to close. Inspected Feb. 2.

Hai Yan Grocery

2330 S 9 ST 19148

10 violations.

Mouse feces on floors, repeat violation. Ordered to close for minimum of 48 hours on Feb. 2.

Zarzueta Grocery

1131 W CUMBERLAND ST 19133

21 violations, 8 serious.

Food safety person not present; employee touched ready-to-eat food with bare hands; no paper towels or soap at hand washing sinks; food held at hazardous temperatures; mouse droppings in retail and storage areas. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 2.

Golden Star Chinese

156 S 60TH ST 19139

6 violations, 3 serious. 

Food safety person not present; employee medicines stored in kitchen; cleaning needed near deep fryers and grill. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 2.

Top Star Chinese Restaurant

6708 N BROAD ST 19126

29 violations, 9 serious.

Food safety person not present; soap, paper towels and handwashing reminder sign missing at sink; handwashing sink blocked by shovels; food not protected from contamination due to heavy grease; foods held at hazardous temperatures; unapproved bleach; mouse droppings in food prep and storage areas. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 2.

Good Taste Chinese Restaurant take-out

201 E WHISHART ST 19135

19 violations, 4 serious.

Food safety person not present; cat running through basement; grease dripping from exhaust hood filters. Agreed to close temporarily on Feb. 2.

Tampopo

269 S 44TH ST 19104

31 violations, 11 serious.

Operating without a license. No record of being asked to close. Employee touching salad with bare hands; employee washed dishes without sanatizing; food held at hazardous temperatures; food thawing in standing water; missing thermometers; general cleaning needed throughout; leaking water from toilet; dead cockroachesin basement. Inspected Feb. 2.

Allowed to reopen: Family Dollar Store #10581, Feb. 22; Caribbean Soul Food, Feb. 21; Mill Creek Tavern, Feb. 21; Market Street Bistro, Feb. 20; Erkies Restaurant, Feb. 20. South Garden Chinese Restaurant, Feb. 2. Heidi Cafe Express, Feb. 2. P & B Breakfast, Feb. 2;  Family Food Land Market, Feb. 1.

Scheduled for Feb. 28 appearances in Court of Common Pleas: Philly's Platinum Grille, 7719 N Crittenden St.; Subway, 3228 N Broad St.; 40th St. Grocery, 804 N 40th St; Torres Mini Market, 5549 Landsdown Ave.; 2501 Sterner Inc., 2501 W Sterner St.; Family Dollar Store #6929, 6555 Greene St.; Tejada Grocery, 2400 W Allegheny Ave.; Trolley Car Diner, 7619 Germantown Ave.; Save -A- Lot, 5834 Pulaski St.; 18th Street Food, 1801 W Ontario St.; Jonalis Grocery Store Inc, 315 N 52nd St.; Vernie's Soul Food, 1800 W Eleanor St. Dasiwa Inc. 735 N 26th St.; Wayne Food Market and Deli, 4352 Wayne Ave.; Chico's Bar, 800 W Wingohocking St.; Pizza Hut #028198, 6242 Stenton Ave.

Scheduled for Mar. 2 appearances in Court of Common Pleas: Xiandu, 1119 Walnut St.;  Dunkin Donuts, 809 S. Broad St.

 

The Health Department visited more than 970 eateries and food retailers between Feb. 1 and Feb. 24. Every inspection is generally regarded as a “snapshot in time,” and not necessarily a reflection of day-to-day conditions. (Some snapshot albums are more attractive collections than others.) Most violations were fixed immediately on site.

If you suspect you have contracted food poisoning or have a sanitation complaint, contact the health department at 215-685-7495.

To look up reports on a specific restaurant, or read more in the Inquirer’s Clean Plates series, visit www.philly.com/cleanplates.

Contact Sam Wood at samwood@phillynews.com, 215-854-2796, or @samwoodiii.