The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

48° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Off-campus restaurants report health code violations

Written by Samantha Olson and Bahar Gholipour

University students have plenty of off-campus dining options in the Stony Brook area- but they are not all alike when it comes to health and safety conditions.

The J and R Steakhouse received a clean bill of health when SuffolkCounty health inspectors visited in January 2012.

But at Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More, a deli on Nesconset Highway, they found rat burrows right outside the kitchen door, rotted refrigerator floors, lukewarm cream cheese and fish that needed to be thrown out.

At Domino’s Pizza, they saw little of concern other than missing calorie counts on the takeout menus.

The historic 303-year-old Country House Restaurant on Main Street, 20 gallons of chicken stock was tossed out after inspectors took its temperature and determined it had not been safely cooled.

The range of violations seen on inspections in the Stony Brook area are “typical of food establishment inspections conducted in Suffolk,” according to Grace Kelly-McGovern, the public relations officer for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Common violations include food kept below or above safe temperatures, letting food cool down or heat up too slowly, cross-contamination or food touching other food, missing consumer menu advisories and incorrect use of disposable gloves.

But the food-service establishment that is in the biggest trouble is undoubtedly Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More. With 38 violations discovered during its most recent inspection, obtained from the county under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, the deli faces significant fines from the county because of its repeated “critical” safety violations that pose an immediate threat to their customers’ health.

The critical violations include failure to keep several types of food at safe temperatures.

On November 27, 2012, inspectors forced Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More to throw out the entire contents of a self-service refrigerator and 9 pounds of smoked fish, as well as raw eggs, cream cheese, barbecued chicken breasts, beef patties, fruit salad, and five slices of coconut custard cake – all because they had been held at unsafe temperatures, in some cases for several hours.

A spokeswoman for the county health department said such steps were necessary to protect the public health.

“The responsibility for correcting violations lies with the operators of the establishments,” Kelly-McGovern said.

In the worst case, Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More’s permit could be suspended and if the violations are not addressed, the manager could be fined or imprisoned.

Currently, the county’s inspection website lists Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More as being under “pending litigation.”

Kelly-McGovern explained that this means that the acting manager is required to meet with the agency to discuss the violations and financial consequences. Each of the 37 violations found at the deli is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000.

In addition to temperature problems, inspectors found plenty of what they called “accumulated grime/filth” throughout the areas where food was stored and prepared at Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More.

“All ceiling tiles in the kitchen were stained brown, and peeling,
according to the report. “The walls in the kitchen were stained yellow and brown.” The walls behind the sinks were stained black, too, and “in all three walk-in units were noted with accumulated food debris and grime.”

Alfonso Marzullo, the manager of Bagels “N” A Hole Lot More, has worked in the Stony Brook location for eight years.

“The laws are there to protect you guys, and they’re good laws, but then they’ll have stupid laws. Once a tomato is cut it has to be refrigerated. Think about how stupid that is,” Marzullo said.

When asked about refrigeration and temperature requirements, Marzullo said, “On certain foods it [temperature requirement] really doesn’t affect it that much, because in a busy deli, like ourselves, the doors are opened and closed all day long. So what happens is, the mayonnaise, for instance, on our tuna fish will change colors.”

According to the Department of Health Services, inspectors usually examine a food establishment once a year, but establishments that have repeated violations may expect a high frequency of inspections and fine.

A facility with 75 or more violations may be subject to closure, but Kelly-McGovern said this has not happened in recent memory.

Marzullo’s establishment has been running under an expired certificate since July 23, 2011. When the violations and certificate expirations were explained to patron Chris Taglia, he stopped smiling and looked down at his plate. “It’s not something I think of all the time, but I should. Eat and be wary, I guess.”

When questioned about vermin violation in which rat burrows were observed in the outdoor grass vicinity of the establishment, along with a hole in the door large enough for a rat to crawl through. However, Marzullo said that it is an “external issue and it is hard to control everything,” maintain the food and serve the customers all while staying in business.

“They don’t want you to operate, they want you to become a technician and a documenter,” Marzullo said.

Hoshi Sushi was another place in Stony Brook area with violations in their report. In a health inspection that was done in March 2012, inspectors found raw chicken stored on top of ready-to-eat avocados and sauces, saw a chef cutting ready-to-eat sushi rolls on the same board where he had just sliced saw fish; and watched a chef set aside a pair of single-use gloves for reuse.

Hoshi Sushi was also required to throw out an entire container of hard shell clams that wasn’t properly tagged. According to the sanitary code, any container of shellfish must have an identifying tag attached, which must remain on the container until all shellfish in the container are sold.

Kelly-McGovern said that tags are very important for tracing the source of shellfish in the event of an illness.

Hoshi Sushi’s manager, Kai Liu, said that the restaurant takes extra precautions regarding shellfish allergies.

Inspectors also found, “accumulated grime/filth” above the stove, on the refrigerator, inside the oven, and on the kitchen wall and floor; no paper towels at two hand-washing sinks; and while they found no clear evidence to support a complaint of rats around Hoshi Sushi’s back door, they did find “several dead roaches” on the floor inside.

The owner and manager of Country House Restaurant, Robert Willemstyn, has worked for over 30 years in the elegantly furnished historic house on North Country Road in Stony Brook. He said his violations are minor, and that some health department rules are difficult for even a conscientious restaurateur to follow.

“Everything has to be heated at 140 [degrees Fahrenheit]. They want food to be heated or chilled faster. It can only be humanly done so fast,” Willemstyn said.

The restaurant also houses a fully stocked bar, equipped with an antique cash register that matches the old-fashioned décor. But according to the health report, white wine was stored in a “soiled, decaying cardboard box held together with electrical tape,” which, according to code, risks contamination from the spout, into customers’ drinks.

“The inspectors don’t bother us, because we do everything right and have only minor violations,” Willemstyn said. “They really look for people like Chinese restaurants, the delis, fast-food places. Places where they don’t have trained chefs and kids work there.”

Under New York law, local municipalities, such as Suffolk County, must use either the sanitary code adopted by the state, or may adopt their own code, which must be at least as strict as the state code.

According to Kelly-McGovern, Suffolk County’s sanitary code is more comprehensive than the state code, thus “stricter.”

At Hoshi Sushi, manage Kai Liu said there had not been any inspections since he started on the job two months earlier and he hasn’t seen the report. “Do you mind (if) I keep a copy of this form, and let our owner know of this situation?” he asked.

Country House’s Willemstyn was even more startled. “You have my health inspection?… How did you get that?” he asked. “I didn’t know people could get my health inspections or put it online. It’s kinda personal stuff.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *