Downtown Athens restaurants not in compliance

Health inspection scores reveal that downtown Athens restaurants fail to adhere closely to Clarke County Health Department standards.

The Health Department places food and beverage service establishments into three categories of risk: high, medium, low. The Georgia Department of Community Health defines risk as “the likelihood that an adverse health effect will occur within a population as a result of a hazard in a food.” Officials consider such criteria as food preparation and storage techniques, cleanliness of facilities and instruments and quality and source of ingredients.

The “High Risk” category consists of 10 places with a score of 82 or below or more than one critical violation. Big City Bread was criticized for the poor condition of their utensils. The inspector also found food buildup and mold on the walls. Captain D’s lost points for use of a dirty can opener and dicer.

Almost half are classified as “Medium Risk” with scores of 91 or below or one critical violation. The Buddha Bar was penalized for mold at the bottom of coolers and for their restroom walls being in disrepair. The Grill neglected to repair the hot water in their front hand washing sink, and their potato cutter was dirty.

Slightly more than a third of the restaurants are categorized as “Low Risk,” with scores of 92 and above and no critical violations. The only violation the Max Canada committed was a broken handle on the cooler door. SunO dessert did not post their inspection report at eye level and at a place approachable within one foot, which cost them one point.

Twelve places received a perfect score of 100 with no violations. This group includes such restaurants as Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, the Trappeze Pub and Depalma’s Italian Café.

Twenty-four restaurants committed at least one critical violation. A common infraction is failure to keep food at appropriate temperatures. Cold foods must be kept 41 degrees or below. Hot foods must be kept at 135 degrees or above. Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Pauley’s were among those in violation. Additionally, places like the Mayflower Restaurant and the Sideways Bar were cited for neglecting to keep foods appropriately separated–e.g. raw foods must be separate from ready-to-eat foods. Inspectors observed failure to wash hands at appropriate intervals, such as in between changes of gloves, in places like Doc Chey’s Noodle House and Gyro Wrap.

The worst overall offender in downtown Athens is Pita Pit. Their health score of 70 is one point short of failing and Clarke County’s second lowest. Only Gumby’s Pizza’s score is lower. Pita Pit employees did not wear hair restraints, neglected to wash hands before changing gloves and used a dirty slicer. Drain flies were also found on the premises. Additionally, the person in charge at the time of inspection was unable to answer routine questions regarding the cold holding temperature requirement.

The restaurant’s health score has not prevented James London, 24, from Alpharetta, Ga., from dining there. “I’ve been eating here for a couple of years now,” said London, “I haven’t gotten sick or anything like that, so I don’t really see a reason to stop eating it.”

“I’m not entirely convinced the health score is a completely accurate reflection of the safety of the food,” said Andrew Jaeger, 19, from Roswell, Ga., “I haven’t had any problems with it, anyway.” “It seems like they take off for little stuff sometimes,” Jaeger also remarked.

Low health scores do not necessarily turn loyal customers against restaurants, but Allison Medlock, 21, from Duluth, Ga., is an example of how favorable health scores can win over a customer.

“My friends always tell me how great Mellow Mushroom is, but I never ate there because they used to have a health score of 80 or something,” Medlock said, “When they raised their score, I finally went to try it, and now it’s one of my favorite restaurants.”

Possible Add-ons:

1. A map with dots signifying the 5 downtown restaurants with the lowest health scores and the 5 with the highest health scores

2. A pie chart breaking down the most commonly violated health regulations alongside a chart that details what the violation entails and how many restaurants committed the violation.

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