LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — "I follow you (online)," said Kevin Chan as our 13 Action News camera crew entered his restaurant.
He and his staff were ready and waiting for our visit.
"Here comes Darcy Spears!"
Cafe No Fur, a vegan restaurant on Spring Mountain near Decatur, specializes in plant-based burgers and boba.
But inspectors investigating a foodborne illness complaint found a petri dish of potential poisoning.
"A lot of stuff that made it very possible that the person did, in fact, get sick from eating here. And that's probably the one hardest thing for you guys to deal with. You never want your customers sick," said Spears.
"Of course we don't," Chan replied. "We don't want it. But it's also hard to prove what happened."
The Health District saw plenty of risk factors, like poor personal hygiene, unsafe food temperatures and cross contamination.
"There was a lot of stuff they noted was dirty or hadn't been cleaned in a while," Spears pointed out. "I believe your cook told them the deli slicer hadn't been wiped down in a week."
"Well, we're 24 hours, so, basically we had just gone through a rush," Chan explained. "And again, it was an off day. I'm not gonna make excuses. Some blame is on us."
But Chan also believes inspectors bear some of the blame and he wrote the following letter to the Health District.
To whom it may concern at SNHD,
I am writing this letter in regards to the health inspection that took place on 11/22/19 at my restaurant:
Café No Fur
5115 Spring Mountain Rd. #225
Las Vegas NV 89146
At the time of the inspection, one cashier and one cook were working inside the restaurant. It should be noted that the one cook is autistic. He is a good worker but has a disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.
At noon, three inspectors came into the kitchen and began asking him questions. He became instantly overwhelmed as not one, but three inspectors hovered over him while cooking and he started to go into panic mode. He mentioned that they came off tough and one said 'You’re already in trouble. Don’t touch anything because do you want to get in more trouble?' He froze up and then did not answer or answered in fear the inspectors' questions. The inspectors seemed to get more frustrated with him as he got more scared. Wilson, our autistic cook, called me during the inspection and was so overwhelmed by his condition that he asked to self-close the restaurant as he could not function with the orders of customers and pressure of inspectors at the same time. I allowed him to do so (as written in the report).
The three inspectors proceeded to walk the kitchen unguided and look for problems. We have a storage area behind the kitchen where no prep is done. There are some tools, paint and leaf blowers there, mop sink and utility sink in that area. A bunch of demerits were gathered in that area because no one told the inspectors that no prep was done in that area and it was only for storage. Obviously without being told anything or given direction, they would assume the worst.
An additional cook came to the store at around 1:00 pm and tried to quell the situation and talk with the inspectors. They told him that Wilson needed to be trained a lot and further demerits were given for lack of demonstration.
I take the blame for not having a manager on duty who could communicate with inspectors, but given what happened, I do not feel the inspection report was fair and somewhat biased. I'm okay with getting a lower B or C grade if I deserve it, but I do not think 39 demerits is warranted. I think the inspection report taken on 11/22/19 should be taken off public record. It is not an accurate depiction at all. I am asking for another inspection with a different inspector which I would feel would be more fair. English speaking managers are now scheduled for easier communication with inspectors. I just want things to be right and fair.
The Health District emailed him this response:
The storage area behind your kitchen is part of your permitted area and regardless of whether or not food prep is conducted in this area, it must still be maintained and is subject to all regulations.
You stated that you are to blame that there was not a manager there to communicate with inspectors, more importantly there was no one there that could monitor food safety and actively control the five major foodborne illness risk factors. Foodborne illness can have devastating consequences. It is your responsibility to monitor and control those risk factors at all times.
Cafe No Fur got a 39-demerit C grade on its Nov. 22 inspection.
There were lots of handwashing violations, plus, uncooked Impossible Burger meat was left out in a bucket on the floor at room temperature overnight.
"The Impossible meat was out defrosting," said Manager Cheryl Greely. "It wasn't left for a long amount of time. It was just in a bucket in a place where they didn't accept."
Food in the freezer was uncovered and rice and boba were at unsafe temperatures.
A sanitizer bucket was taken off the floor and placed on an in-use cutting board.
The deli slicer was excessively dirty.
And there was one live cockroach in a dirty sink next to a storage room full of dirty equipment including chemicals, paint, bicycle parts and orange street cones.
"I know they were concerned that was potential harborage for pests," said Spears. "And even though they only found one roach, one always means there are more."
"Right," Greely said. "And we are getting that under control as well."
Other issues included a spoon lying in the ice cream, a container of foul-smelling spoiled mustard, excessive food debris, grease and dust on floors, walls, shelves, ceilings and cooking equipment, and stinky floor drains filled with excessive wet food and grease.
"Restaurants aren't perfect," said Chan. "They just caught us on a bad day."
Chan says Cafe No Fur is only a year old so they're still learning, building their staff and teaching employees to be on their A game at all times -- including during a health inspection.
"If you're not prepared for that, you're gonna get killed. And a lot of my friends that are owners, like, they get caught on a bad day and they get a C and then Darcy Spears comes," Chan said with a chuckle.
He called the Health District's visit a painful but valuable lesson.
"The health inspectors are supposed to come to check on us. Honestly, we're gonna fix it. We're gonna get our A back. Everyone gets their A back. And then three months later they're going to come back again and they're gonna make sure you're still an A. And if you're a B or a C then you'd better get your act together. That's what it is. That's what it's about," said Chan.
Cafe No Fur got its A grade back on Dec. 17.
Chan sent a statement after our interview to add the following:
Although it saddens me that we are on this show, this experience has taught us the importance of the PIC (Person in Charge) position which I’ve learned is directly related to better communication with customers/customer service, phone calls, organization and better communication with inspectors and press. Things will not go perfectly if more manager positions are not created here. Going into year two, I will adjust and create extra supervisory positions so the Café workers and Café will be monitored at all times. When I watch your previous episodes, I see how many times you go to a restaurant and they can’t even speak English. In this city there are many blue collar workers whose first language is not English. I recognize the frustration you, inspectors, and customers might have with such a communication barrier. I intend to make Café No Fur the best that it can be and that this conflict will no longer exist.
There was also an imminent health hazard closure for a sewage spill at Marketon on Tropicana and Eastern as part of a solid waste investigation on Nov. 19.
Sewage had overflowed into the meat and fish department, bakery and deli.
Marketon self-closed all areas where open food was made and sold.
The Health District allowed those areas to re-open on Nov. 20.
Our call for comment to the store manager was not returned.
Click here to see the health report for Cafe No Fur.
Click here to see the health report for Marketon #6 Meat & Fish.
Click here to see the health report for Marketon #6 Deli.
Click here to see the health report for Marketon #6 Bakery.