LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Mask up, back up, wash up.
That's the Health District's new motto and they're printing it in health inspections, but it's clear not every restaurant is getting the message--especially when it comes to handwashing.
By now, we all should know that we must wash our hands for at least 20 seconds. But health inspectors say workers at El Herradero were just doing a quick rinse. One food handler didn’t wash at all after handling raw meat.
The Mexican restaurant on Warm Springs Road and Spencer Street got a 39-demerit “C” grade on its Jan. 12 inspection.
Owner Avelina Ramirez Morales says they're still working to fix all the issues inspectors noted.
Handwashing violations topped the list at El Herradero, but there were also multiple foods in the temperature danger zone including milk and two kinds of house-made salsa.
There was a repeat violation for using the 3-compartment sink for food prep and dishwashing at the same time.
Dirty kitchenware was stored as clean, food containers were dirty with old food, unwashed avocados were touching sliced bell peppers, and fridge and freezer floors and walls were excessively dirty with build-up and old food, requiring a deep clean.
"That happened because we are in this COVID situation," Morales said. "Our workers are at home. They didn't come to work. We don't have enough workers."
She says she's had to take on a lot of duties herself.
"So, it's a little hard to work with the customers and work in the kitchen and work with everything."
Inspectors say kitchen staff were not knowledgeable in basic food safety, food was not date-labeled, salt and chilies were in uncovered bins subject to contamination and raw beef was stored above ready-to-eat cactus.
There was also an open cup of employee coffee next to ready-to-eat customer food.
"We know this is a really hard time for restaurants and you're so limited in what you can do. So, what do you want people to hear from you as you recover from this?" Darcy Spears asked.
"The customers have been our customers for a long time, so they know us, they trust us, and they know we're committed to fixing this," Morales answered.
Chick-fil-A on Rancho Drive and Sahara Avenue was shut down Jan. 12 for the imminent health hazard of no hot water.
Inspectors arrived that day to do a final approval on a minor remodel and found Chick-fil-A operating without hot water, creating multiple handwashing violations that led to immediate shutdown.
General Manager Jesse Forrest said he was notified of a hot water issue the night before and had a plumber there immediately, but the plumber had to order a part.
It arrived the next morning, which is when the inspector was scheduled to come in to approve a dishwasher installation.
Forrest says the inspector came in as the plumber was working on it. "And it was Murphy’s law because we discovered that the part we had overnighted was faulty. We decided to replace the entire hot water heater and re-opened with an 'A' grade the next day, Jan. 13."
He added, "This is not an oversight on our part. It's something you simply can’t plan for and it was a learning experience. The safety of our food, guests and staff is always our number one priority."
The imminent health hazard closure at Public Works coffee shop in Henderson on Jan. 12 was also for no hot water.
Though the closure there only lasted a few hours, inspectors had to educate them on proper handwashing after seeing food handlers come and go from the food area, then fail to wash up before handling food.
The report says staff would ring up customers, handle money, then prepare coffee beverages with no handwashing whatsoever.
Owner Windom Kimsey says he was only aware of the hot water issue, which they got fixed immediately, enabling them to re-open just a few hours later with a 3-demerit "A" grade.
As for the employee handwashing issues, General Manager Marino Angeles said two new employees were helping each other and didn't realize how often they had to wash. They have been re-educated and it's no longer an issue.
Rally’s on Desert Inn Road and Boulder Highway was shut down on Jan. 14 for failing re-inspection from a previous hot water issue impacting the restrooms used by employees.
The inspector wrote that Rally’s “has failed to act in good faith according to the repair plan” it agreed to with the Health District.
Rally's Operating Partner Craig Mott was stumped as to why the inspector would've characterized it that way.
He said a mixer valve, which sends hot water to the back of restaurant to restrooms and hand sinks, was not working and they had to order a replacement part. He says the plumber was there fixing it when the inspector shut them down.
"It made me sick that she shut us down," Mott said. "It happened the way it happened and cost us $1400. She wouldn’t wait for the plumber to finish."
Rally's was re-inspected on Jan. 14 and received a 6-demerit "A" grade.
Click here to see the health report for El Herradero.
Click here to see the health report for Rally's.
Click here to see the health report for Chick-fil-A.
Click here to see the health report for Public Works.