JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Last month, a low health score at a popular Hoover business that hasn’t been open that long got our attention. Turns out, someone at the Jefferson County Department of Health posted it by accident.
Dave and Busters at the Riverchase Galleria has been open for almost a year. It took 7 months for the restaurant to get its first unofficial health inspection. The restaurant scored a 65. Screenshots were posted on social media showing the violations which included storing food at improper temperatures to condensate leaks on chicken tenders, shredded cheese, and a handful of other food.
The health department says the score was posted on June 10 by mistake and that this information is never supposed to be released publicly.
"She [the inspector] went in there to do this inspection as I remember correctly, it was a long inspection and she typed as a regular so it went to the web after she uploaded it,” Bruce Braden, JCDH Environmental Health Program Manager said.
The health department says new restaurants get their initial approval to open then after a while an inspector gives them a freebie walk through inspection to show them things they need to work on so it doesn’t hurt them right off the bat.
"That’s the whole reason for doing that free inspection is so that we don’t just destroy a business with a low health score when they first start off and the inspector knows that going in,” Braden said.
Four days after the 65 health score was accidentally posted, Dave and Busters got its official inspection and scored a 90. That score is now posted in the restaurant’s lobby.
So this got us wanting to know about other new businesses. We recently requested a list of new establishment permits issued in October and November of 2018. Almost 100 permits were issued. So far, 28 have had no inspection and five have received those freebie inspections.
So why is it taking so long for inspections? It could come down to resources. Right now, there are 21 food inspector positions. The department is trying to fill two of those positions. Each inspector is assigned to 220 food establishments. The Food and Drug Administration recommends 150, according to Braden. We asked Braden how many inspectors he would need to successfully do the job.
“We can do it as well as we’ve been doing it with 20 to 21 people. We could do it much better with more people. They could spend more time, longer inspections, and everything else that’s never been that way,” Braden said.
JCDH tells us one of its inspectors has been out on medical leave and that’s why they believe it’s taking a while for some restaurants to get checked out. They told us they would check on those that we made them aware of. Also to point out, the long delay in inspections doesn’t violate any state laws.
JCDH says the inspection frequency depends on the business.
Food establishments earning a sanitation score of less than 85 on the last inspection shall be inspected again within the next 60 days.
If the health score is less than 70, the establishment should initiate corrective action on all identified violations within 48 hours. One or more inspections will be conducted at a reasonable time to assure correction.
If the health score is less than 60, the permit shall be immediately suspended. That permit will remain suspended until all critical violations are corrected.
-Priority Category 4 establishments shall be inspected at least four times per year.
-Priority Category 3 establishments shall be inspected at least three times per year.
-Priority Category 2 establishments shall be inspected at least twice a year.
-Priority Category 1 establishments shall be inspected at least once a year.
Bars and lounges serving only beverages or only beverages along with Priority Category 2 food items, shall be inspected at least annually.