Health dept: Education, ratings prevent violations

UPDATE: Jimmy Love of Jimmy’s Southside Tavern said that the restaurant was reinspected and recieved a good score the day after the poor score mentioned in the article below. Health director David Knauf confirmed. A subsequent inspection had a good result as well, Love said.

Three Darien restaurants received “poor” ratings from the Darien health department, including one that has been open for less than six months.

Before the new year, three inspections at Duchess restaurant, Jimmy’s Southside Tavern, which took over Phil’s Grill’s spot in Noroton Heights in October, and Atria Darien yielded “poor” results.

Three other restaurants — Wild Ginger, Chuck’s Steakhouse and Tengda Asian Bistro — received  “fair” ratings. The rest of Darien’s food establishments, which includes the schools, had “good” grades for recent inspections.

Establishment’s receive a rating of one through three corresponding to a poor, fair and good grade. By state public health regulations, all establishments must be graded on a 100-point system, and are marked with up to four ‘demerits’ for improperly stored or delivered food, sick employees, lack of hand-washing or bathroom facilities, and improper sewage disposal. Locations that fail the inspection by receiving less than 80 points or more than one demerit are required to be reinspected in less than 10 days. If they fail the re-inspection, the department is required to close the location.

Failing is different from receiving a “poor” score, according to David Knauf, the town’s health director. An establishment can receive a “poor” for not repairing a floor or wall at multiple inspections. This does not mean the food is necessarily at risk, Knauf said.

“If we’re not making any progress with them, giving a ‘poor’ is an extra incentive for them doing these thing,” he said.

The condition for which Atria received a poor grade was corrected the next day, Knauf said.

“That’s not an ongoing ‘poor’,” he said. “We have to be very careful that we do our follow up and do them correctly.”

The health department requires a hearing if an establishment fails two inspections or receives two poor ratings in one year. The town has had a hearing with Duchess, for example, Knauf said, because of an ongoing situation. Duchess has already implemented practices to fix the previous situation.

Whether an establishment needs to be shut down depends on the “relative risk for public health,” Knauf said.

“If there’s no hot water for example — if there’s no ability to sanitize dishes, or the refrigerator doesn’t work — they should be closed.”

The health department considers its role to be “education-based,” he said, as it cannot implement fines. One example is a  new training program for new food-service employees. It is for “anyone interested in learning some basic but critical concepts in storing, preparing and serving food to the public,” according to the department. People who pass an exam for the course will be approved to handle food in Darien. The next class will be on Thursday, Jan. 17 at Town Hall. Contact the health department at 203-656-7320 to register.

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