LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It's hard to beat the convenience of a neighborhood market where you can buy all your groceries, pick up some booze, do a little gambling and get a fresh, ready-made meal.
But when you're doing all that surrounded by roaches and rats, it takes the convenience out of the equation and puts a bit of a damper on things.
Despite a sometimes-losing battle, Nick Kasto says Stewart Supermarket is determined to beat back the bugs and he claims customers stand behind him every step of the way.
"Everybody here knows what's going on with the rodents and the roaches," Kasto said, adding that it's not just his business.
"I had one customer, for God's sake, she came in, opened her purse and a roach came out of it! What does that tell you? The whole area, it's old!"
The building on Stewart Ave. near Bruce St. that houses Stewart Market and Liquor was built in 1949. Nick's been running it off and on for 22 years, doing what he can on the inside but with limits since they don't own the building.
"Landlords don't like to spend money. They just like to collect rent."
The restaurant inside Stewart Market was shut down on July 30 for multi-generational cockroach and rat infestations, as well as gross unsanitary conditions.
"How much of a hit is it to the business to not have this area open?" Darcy Spears asked.
"Well, everything hurts," said Kasto. "We spent a lot of money to get this up and running a few years back."
Inspectors found roaches and rodent droppings as well as old food, grease and dirt built up throughout the facility and on equipment.
"We eat here," said Kasto. "My family eats here. All these employees that are working with me here, we all eat here. And you think we like something like that in there?"
Nick claims there were only four cockroaches in the restaurant and the rodent droppings were confined to the back storage area.
"They (rodents) love dog food--the bags," he said, explaining what the rats are seeking.
To keep the rats out, they're patching holes, putting out poison, sealing areas around baseboards, "And we had another guy go up on the roof. We said maybe they're coming in from the roof. We don't know."
He says part of the problem lies with overwhelmed and understaffed pest control companies.
"We pay them extra to come in every week when we see anything but they don't have the time. They don't have enough help."
A worker for one of his two contracted pest control companies told Kasto about a recent experience. "He was saying that he was inside a restaurant and cockroaches were dropping on top of his head when he was spraying! And we don't want it to get to that point. And as much as I hate getting written up by the Health District, I like it because they have their ways of finding things and they point them out to us."
Violations aside from the rats and roaches included refried beans and birria sauce that had to be thrown out due to improper cooling--a repeat violation from their March 11 inspection.
Raw eggs were stored over ready-to-eat cheese, and boxes of fruits and vegetables were stored on the cooler floor.
Kasto showed us the metal shelving they bought to elevate everything the required six inches off the cooler floor and pointed out the deep cleaning they just completed in all areas the Health District highlighted.
"You'll do a lot, you'll clean a lot, you'll spend a lot of money on pest control stuff, but it's there! You can't change it."
But you can, at least temporarily, beat the bugs back. And that's what Stewart Supermarket did, earning the restaurant's "A" grade back on Aug. 10.
Sinaloa Tacos, a food trailer operating in what the Health District described as an “unapproved open-air food court” on Decatur and Lake Mead Blvds., was shut down July 29 with 48 demerits and two imminent health hazards: no potable water and gross unsanitary conditions.
Liquid waste was leaking onto the ground.
A large container of carne asada and one of cooked tripe were thrown out due to unsafe temperatures.
Instead of proper dish-washing, a food handler briefly splashed chemical sanitizer onto dirty dishes and set them aside to air dry.
And they were displaying the 2018 "A" grade card from a hot dog cart that’s no longer active.
Sinaloa Tacos got its own "A" grade back on Aug. 4 with zero demerits.
Owner Cesareo Zuniga-Espinoza said, "We were only closed for a few days before we got our 'A' back." Despite what the health report said, he would only acknowledge "issues outside," saying, "Everything with the food was perfect." As for the grade card, he said, "We've been almost 10 years in business and have been doing it the same way with the permit but this time they said I needed a new one. So I got a new one."
Tacos-N-More in the food court at the Galleria Mall in Henderson was shut down July 30 for inadequate refrigeration and “other condition or circumstance that may endanger public health.”
Foods in the temperature danger zone included rice, raw steak, raw marinated chicken, eggs, salsa, and pork adobado. All were thrown out.
Make and prep tables, cutting boards, pots, utensils, etc. were not being sanitized.
Floors under cookline equipment were dirty and greasy.
We were unable to reach anyone on the phone and our text requesting comment was not returned.
Tacos-N-More was re-inspected on Aug. 2 and received a zero-demerit "A" grade.
Maize St. food truck was shut down at Mountains Edge Regional Park on July 30 for inadequate refrigeration.
Food in the temperature danger zone included pork loins, shredded pork, cheese and ham. All of it was thrown out and the make-table was red-tagged.
Maize St. was re-inspected on Aug. 3 and received a zero-demerit "A" grade.
The owner did not return our call or text for comment.
Yaqui Zen Kitchen, a mobile vendor serving up vegan Mexican street food at the Bruce Trent Park Farmers Market, was shut down on July 28.
It also got 28 demerits.
A food handler took their mask off and on, then touched grill utensils without washing hands.
Food in portable coolers in the temperature danger zone included cooked potatoes with vegan soy meat, corn, macaroni salad, jack fruit ceviche, cut watermelon, shredded cabbage, vegan cheese and salsa. All were tossed into the garbage.
Owner Ivon Valenzuela emailed the following statement"
“Our experience with SNHD in the past 2.5 years had been pleasant and we had been able to work out every step of the inspection process with the inspectors. Passing every unannounced visit and yearly inspections at our commercial kitchen and on-site events, to include fire protection inspections.
There is a concept that your audience needs to understand, our annual permit is very different from a restaurant. We are given a pass or fail and can be shut down by 1 demerit past the limit of demerits we can have. Restaurants can have 15 demerits and still have an "A" rating.
This time around, the inspector was training someone in her field and I believe that is one of the reasons she did not give us a chance to redeem what could have been fixed on-site, like the ice level. We volunteered to throw away the items that were in the danger zone of temperature, but that did not help.
What happened next was not professional on the part of the inspector. After the inspection was done, she mentioned she had to call her supervisor and we were not to serve food at that moment. After 2 hours of my full staff standing there without any news, she comes and closes our business. There was more loss to our business. In my opinion, if she was not equipped to make such decisions on-site at the exact moment she knew we needed to close temporarily, why is she sent out in the field to shut places down? This could have been handled very differently on her part.
This is not an isolated incident of farmers market business owners being treated like 'this is a privilege' to have a business, as the inspector said in a meeting with SNHD. She asked me to warn other pop-up business owners that they will be at every market every week. I felt like my livelihood was threatened, like they are out to get us. We are a vulnerable group as we are out in the elements of the Las Vegas heat. We are micro-small business owners, we live day-to-day, and a $1,400 fine can be damaging. This fine has gone up considerably since COVID hit, although per CDC we know it’s not transmittable by food consumption. We are actually considered essential workers per Nevada law, as we provide essentials to the community in a safe, outdoor venue."
Yaqui Zen Kitchen was re-opened 3 business days later after shutdown.”
It was re-inspected on Aug. 2 and received a zero-demerit "A" grade.
Click here to see the health report for Stewart Supermarket.
Click here to see the health report for Sinaloa Tacos.
Click here to see the health report for Yaqui Zen Kitchen.
Click here to see the health report for Maize St.
Click here to see the health report for Tacos-N-More.