Restaurant Hazards

Late yesterday afternoon, I thought I’d get a slice of pizza.  I don’t eat high fat food every day, and since my cholesterol stays in good shape without medication it didn’t seem like a bad idea.

My attitude and appetite changed completely when I saw a health inspector’s notice in the front window.  An iPhone photo of the notice, as well as a screenshot of the S.F. Dept. of Public Health report, are at the end of this post.  The name of the business is omitted because the owner has enough problems already.  It’s all a matter of public record, but still, it didn’t feel right to identify the restaurant here.

You may have to zoom in to read the documents.

This emergency shutdown was ordered after a routine inspection. Apparently, the frightening discoveries were made without a complaint from the public, which is why the Health Department does routine inspections.

Many restaurant health code violations are the result of ignorance or laziness, and the business where I almost got a slice of pizza yesterday is guilty of some of those, according to the citation.  I won’t act as an apologist for it.

On the other hand, some common code violations are the result of overhead costs making it impossible for a business owner to maintain standards.  Rent, utility bills and other expenses can be overwhelming.  A storefront tenant signs a lease for a specific period of time, and if that tenant starts losing money everything goes to hell.  I won’t offer that as an excuse because if everything goes to hell in a food establishment it can end up hospitalizing or killing patrons. Still, we know there are no easy answers, aside from opening a fundraising account.  How many people will contribute to help a so-called for profit business avoid sickening its patrons? Someone would probably call it extortion.

In the past couple of years, I’ve read about restaurants in the Castro District (where this unidentified pizza parlor is not located) being shut down by the Health Department temporarily, until they resolve mouse infestations.  Evidently, that clean neighborhood has a disproportionate number of tiny rodents, and restaurant owners pay such high rent that some wait until they’re compelled to do something about it.

High rent may be a bigger problem in the Castro District than in some other parts of the city, but the Bay Area in general isn’t cheap. Anything with a roof on it will take a big chunk of your income, and depending on the terms of your lease the landlord may have no obligation to pay for pest control, painting or repairs.  The landlord doesn’t pay the cost of keeping food at a safe temperature, either. Some of these building owners are rich, and some are not.  It isn’t out of the question that in some cases everyone gets screwed.

I pay good money for single slices of pizza, even at the cheaper places.  I don’t complain when the layer of cheese is thin, either.  Still, it doesn’t cover costs.  The San Francisco Bay Area has been priced out of the real world.

Now, there are longtime empty storefronts in places where small stores and restaurants used to survive, if not thrive.  With a few exceptions, independent businesses can’t make it (Don’t get me started on how the online economy has done its part to wipe out brick-and-mortar establishments.  That would require a separate blog post).  The result is bankruptcy for local merchants, lost jobs for workers and — please forgive me for being candid — mouse turds and microbes in the food for the rest of us.

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