LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Dirty Dining gets the runaround on a roach problem.
The “nothing to see here” defense might work on some people, but not on 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
The unusual interaction was at Kuben, a sushi and bento restaurant on Fort Apache Road and Tropicana Avenue.
It was shut down on June 19 for a multi-generational cockroach infestation and it also got 38 demerits.
Darcy Spears paid Kuben a visit and asked the owner, Taehwi Kwon, what happened and why there were so many roaches.
"No, there are no roaches," Kwon responded.
Spears: Well, there were. That's why the restaurant was shut down.
Kwon: No. There is no comment.
Spears: There's no comment, but there were roaches?
Kwon: No, there were not.
Kwon asks how we know about their closure.
"Did you see the paper that was on the door when we were shut down?"
He's referring to the pink Health District sign the agency posts as a notice to the public on every restaurant they shut down for an imminent health hazard.
Spears: I have a copy of the health inspection from the Southern Nevada Health District.
Kwon: Yeah, but it doesn't say anything about roaches in there.
Spears: Yes, it does.
Kwon: It doesn't. No.
Spears: Do you want me to pull it up on my phone and show it to you?
So, we do.
"This is the list of imminent health hazards," Spears said, showing Kwon the report he would've already had as the Health District always provides a copy to the restaurant at the end of each inspection. "Gross unsanitary occurrence or conditions including pest infestation. So that's the checkmark in that box," Spears read.
Further down the report in the violation details, "It says 'Pests observed in facility. Multi-generational cockroaches live and dead throughout facility: under the sink, on the floor, under the cookline, in the fryer cabinet, on a shelf next to pans used for cooking.' That's the very first violation in this report and it's the imminent health hazard that caused you to shut down," Spears reiterated.
And there are plenty of photos to support the inspectors' observations.
"So, are you still saying there were no roaches? That there weren't any when the Health District was here?" Spears asked.
"What do you want me to do?" Kwon responded. "I'm already dealing with the Health District and everything is clear right now. Why do I have to say anything to you here?"
Kwon claims the health inspector advised him not to talk to us.
"But when you look me in the face and tell me that there was never a roach infestation, and I have the proof right here that there was, it's going to make our viewers concerned that you're trying to hide something," said Spears.
Kwon reiterates that he's following the inspector's instructions about commenting on camera.
Spears: Are you still saying there were no roaches? Is the Health District wrong?
Kwon: No. They were right. I'm not saying they were wrong.
And he didn't want to say any more about any of the other violations, including a food handler who touched his hair and continued with food prep without washing his hands; chicken made two days prior being held at an unsafe temperature in the make table that had to be thrown out; and a bulk bag of flour that was left open and unprotected from potential contamination.
Inspectors also found a can of Raid the restaurant was using to spray its floors, which is not allowed due to the potential to contaminate food.
They were using a dry wiping cloth with no sanitizer to clean sushi knives and cutting boards.
Excessive old food dirtied floors and equipment.
And hood filters over the cooking area were caked with dirt and dust.
Kuben re-opened June 24 with an "A" grade.
Repeat offender Smokey's Bistro at Hawaiian Marketplace on Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue tied with Kuben for the highest demerits.
Smokey's got a 38-demerit “C” grade on its June 14 inspection.
We don't have photos to go along with this report because the inspector's cell phone was stolen while on the property, so the photos were lost.
Smokey's had moldy strawberries in the make table, ready to be served to customers.
In the fridge, inspectors found slimy, expired mushrooms and two expired containers of half 'n' half, one of which was a month old.
Improperly cooled chili prepared the day before had to be thrown out, as did a container of cooked noodles.
Food at unsafe temperatures included large pans of raw chicken and blanched fries, containers of sliced tomatoes, chopped lettuce, shredded cheese, batter, sour cream, hummus, cooked chicken, raw burgers, cooked sausage, hot dogs, containers of marinara sauce, deli turkey, eggs, meatballs, containers of cooked chili, containers of roast beef and corned beef hash.
All of that had to be thrown out.
Utensils on the hotline were stored in dirty water.
Raw burger patties were stored over chopped onions and cooked chicken.
Cutting boards were dirty. A food handler told inspectors cutting boards are washed once daily at the end of the day.
A dirty can opener and deli slicer were stored as clean
There was pink and orange mold in the ice machine.
Food handlers wiped cutting boards with dirty, dry cloths.
General Manager Alex Adam did not respond to our requests for comment.
Multiple-time repeat offender Antojitos Guayabitos food truck has been on Dirty Dining five times in the last six years.
This time, it was shut down on Nellis Boulevard and Washington Avenue on June 17 for inadequate refrigeration.
It also got 25 demerits.
Inspectors say it was a new truck that didn’t have valid license plates and the VIN number plate had been removed.
The grade card wasn't posted and the one they had wasn’t even theirs. It was from a different truck.
As for the food, pico de gallo, ceviche, tomato and cucumber salad, raw fish and raw shrimp all had to be thrown out due to unsafe temperatures.
And beverages for sale to customers were submerged in contaminated water filled with old food and other particles.
Owner Jorge Serrano was required to attend a Food Safety Assessment meeting with the Health District.
He did not return our call or text for comment.
A Korean fried chicken restaurant simply named BBQ Chicken on Silverado Ranch Boulevard and Maryland Parkway was shut down June 17 for inadequate refrigeration.
It also got 30 demerits.
An employee touched their cell phone, then handled food without washing hands.
Four boxes of expired heavy cream in the fridge had to be thrown out, as did a container of expired kimchi.
Tons of food in the fridge was tossed out due to unsafe temperatures including 12 pans of marinated raw chicken, 10 boxes of raw chicken wings, containers of kimchi, coleslaw, cheese corn, noodles, trays and boxes of eggs and more.
There were more foods in the temperature danger zone in the prep table including whole chickens, chicken thighs and chicken wings.
Soda nozzles were dirty and the ice machine was moldy.
BBQ Chicken Owner Emmy Praferosa sent the following statement:
"It was a day of bad luck and timing. Our walk-in cooler broke down at the same time the inspector came. We had our contractor on site right away trying to fix the refrigeration, but we needed a new compressor. The next day we passed inspection.”
BBQ Chicken reopened June 18 with a zero-demerit "A" grade.
Fusion Street food truck, which serves tapas, sliders and tacos, was shut down on June 15 for two imminent health hazards: interruption of electrical service and inadequate refrigeration.
The closure came at Servehzah Bottle Shop and Tap Room in the downtown Arts District.
Fusion Street also got 22 demerits—which would’ve been a "C" grade if it was allowed to remain open.
Food in the temperature danger zone included full pans of pork belly, coleslaw, cheese and sausages.
An unsanitized thermometer was used to probe a chicken.
Owner Derek Hornaday was required to attend a Food Safety Assessment meeting with the Health District's Specialized Food Office, after which Fusion Street was re-inspected on June 17 and received a zero demerit "A" grade.
Hornaday said he was struggling to keep everything at the required temperatures after serving six or seven tickets and constantly opening and closing the make table.
"I was using time as a control, but that many tickets in hot temperatures makes it hard. There’s no excuse for the prep table temperatures and I’m frustrated by it too. I took the class, paid the fine, got a double generator, and now all is well. I have no problem with complying and I'm learning what I don't know after getting good advice from the Health District. This is my first time operating in the Vegas summer heat with this business."
But he questions a few things about the inspection.
"If they [inspectors] thought it was unsafe, why did they let me finish serving my customers? I’m not faulting them for doing their job, but the extreme fines for the average food truck owner hit a small business that doesn’t have deep pockets pretty hard. Let us fix the violations on-site or self-close. I want to keep people safe. I’ll never be complacent. I’m okay with the lessons learned and I'm trying to own up to my responsibilities. But to hit you with such a big fine seems unnecessary. I wish they could issue a warning first."
Click here to see the health report for Kuben.
Click here to see the health report for Smokey's Bistro Restaurant.
Click here to see the health report for BBQ Chicken.
Click here to see the health report for Antojitos Guayavitos.
Click here to see the health report for Fusion Street.