Visitors to Red Deer’s Dragon City Cafe Tuesday evening and during much of the day on Wednesday found a locked door and a notice from Alberta Health Services.
That notice advised that the restaurant had been ordered closed for a variety of reasons, including improper food storage, staff not washing their hands, inadequate control of flies and poor general sanitation.
David Brown, Alberta Health Services’ central zone manager for environmental public health, confirmed that the closure occurred following an inspection of the premises late Tuesday afternoon.
“At that time a verbal order was initiated, and it was followed up at 6:10 (p.m.) by a written copy that was placarded on the front door.”
Brown said “fairly significant non-compliant areas” had previously been found during inspections in June. Tuesday’s check, which was prompted by a customer complaint, was the final straw.
Alberta Health Services officials met with the Sam Bao, an owner of Dragon City Cafe, Wednesday morning. The premises underwent another inspection in the afternoon.
By that time, said Brown, conditions had improved considerably and the restaurant was allowed to reopen.
“Literally, they were in there hours and hours and hours cleaning the place up, and it’s suitable for food service again.”
But, he added, strict operating requirements have been put into place.
“We are going to be monitoring this facility very closely for the coming weeks and months. If there is one misstep, they’re back to where they were yesterday.”
Brown said Alberta Health Services tries to give restaurateurs the opportunity to address deficiencies when the risk to the public is not immediate.
“In this particular case, we were seeing a situation where they would be non-compliant, the next inspection within a very short time frame they would be compliant, and then the following inspection within seven days they’d be non-compliant.”
Roberta Saltvold complained to Alberta Health Services about Dragon City Cafe on Monday. She and her husband had gone to the restaurant Friday and noticed problems like food scraps on the floor and poorly maintained washrooms.
Public complaints are normally pursued within 48 hours, said Brown, but because of Dragon City Cafe’s recent history, Alberta Health Services reacted quickly.
“People need to feel confident that we’re doing our jobs.”
Bao, who operates Dragon City Cafe with other partners, said problems existed at the restaurant before they bought it six months ago.
“We’ve done lots and lots of work,” he said.
Bao added that it’s been a challenge to train staff, particularly with turnover. He also said that the Alberta Health Services inspectors have varied, with each identifying different issues.
Regardless, Bao thinks his restaurant’s problems are behind it.
“We did what they told us to do.”
Brown said Dragon City Cafe was compliant with health standards when the new owners took over. He added that it’s the owners’ responsibility to ensure their staff are trained.
“He’s had six months to send some people to our courses, and we offer those courses twice a month locally.”
Brown also noted that the inspectors who visited Dragon City Cafe in June identified similar problems.
“I’m not sure where the grey is in there.”
Alberta Health Services has issued three other closure orders to local restaurants this year: in February to Hot of the Grill in Sylvan Lake and Hip Hot Dogs in Red Deer, and in May to the 3321 Gaetz Ave. Taco Time.
Results of restaurant inspections can be found online at www.dthr.ab.ca/restaurant-inspections.