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December sees few failed restaurant inspections

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- Only two Champaign County restaurants failed public health inspections in December, the fewest in any month since June.

Maize Mexican Grill, 60 E. Green St., and The Clark Bar, 207 W. Clark St., both in Champaign, failed after inspectors from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District gave them each a score lower than 36 out of 100.

Located in a small building on the northwest corner of First and Green streets that once housed Ye Olde Donut Shop and, more recently, the short-lived Derald’s Diner, Maize Mexican Grill opened this fall after receiving its health permit in September, according to the health district’s website.

During the restaurant’s first routine health inspection Dec. 6, the district’s sanitarians observed raw pork not being cooked to the proper internal temperature, workers failing to separate raw and cooked foods during preparation, and an employee not washing hands between handling raw and prepared food, according to inspection records. These and other violations earned Maize a score of 14 out of 100.

Because the restaurant was cited for nine critical violations on its first routine inspection, health officials returned the following week. During a Dec. 15 reinspection, Maize scored 81 out of 100, and the inspector noted that the restaurant had “much better control of critical violations.”

Owner Armando Sandoval said the inspection process was fair and that correcting the issues health officials pointed out has helped improve his business.

While fixing the problems involved some extra expenses, "at the end of the day, it's safety for my customers and a better work ethic for my employees," he said.

The Clark Bar scored 34 out of 100 on its Dec. 20 inspection, failing for the first time since opening in 2008, according to health district records.

Among the violations inspectors cited were a “keg cooler and bar reach-in cooler found containing potentially hazardous food and lacking thermometers,” the use of noncommercial appliances in food preparation, and several soiled food-contact surfaces, according to the inspection report.

No one answered the phone at The Clark Bar on Thursday.

Jim Roberts, the district’s environmental health director, said the low number of failures in December was the result of regular month-to-month fluctuations.

“It varies,” he said.

Since April 2007, there have been nine months during which no establishments failed their health inspections, according to an analysis of inspection records. On the other hand, in September 2008, 14 failed. On average, three or four restaurants fail each month.

Another contributing factor is that the health district conducts about half as many inspections in December as it does in a typical month.

There are two main reasons for this, Roberts said.

First, there are fewer working days and some inspectors take time off for the holidays. Second, the district conducts more educational sessions with restaurant employees during December than in a typical month.

District rules allow restaurants that are inspected three times a year – those that prepare more complex food and extensively handle raw ingredients – to opt for one of these sessions instead of a third routine inspection. In a usual month, the district conducts 31 educational sessions, but it conducts 77 on average in December, according to district records.

The fact that fewer routine health inspections are conducted in December does not increase the likelihood of unsanitary conditions going undetected, Roberts said.

“Food safety education presentations to food establishment staff and managers are another activity used to improve food safety understanding and compliance,” he said.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District records were obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act because the district does not publicize the results of its inspections in any form. Restaurants and other food-service facilities are inspected routinely because unsanitary conditions can lead to food-borne illnesses.

Last year, public health officials said they hoped to begin posting inspection records online in January. But in December officials said they would not be able to meet that goal until at least the spring, citing ongoing “computer glitches.”

District officials have pledged since 2008 to make the information more easily available to the dining public but have repeatedly pushed back self-imposed deadlines for getting the records online.

CU-CitizenAccess continues to obtain inspection reports and add restaurants that have failed to an interactive map on a monthly basis as a public service. (See the sidebar above for a link to the map.)

December inspection failures

Click on the name of a restaurant to view its inspection report. For a complete listing of restaurants that have failed inspections since April 2007, see the map in the sidebar.

Facility Name Address Inspection Date Inspection Type Score (out of 100)
Maize Mexican Grill 60 E. Green St., Champaign 12/6/2011 Routine 14
The Clark Bar 207 W. Clark St., Champaign 12/20/2011 Routine 34


Restaurant inspection failures by month

This chart shows the number of restaurants that have failed health inspections each month from April 2007 through December 2011. Hover your cursor over the line to see the number of failures for each month.


Average monthly health inspections and education sessions

This chart shows the average number of restaurant health inspections and education sessions held with restaurant workers each month from 2008 through 2011. Restaurants that are inspected three times a year – those that prepare more complex food and extensively handle raw ingredients –  can opt for an education session for employees instead of a third routine inspection.

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