Inspections shut down more Fresno restaurants. Here’s why they were closed

Four restaurants were closed – some for a few hours, some for a few days – by Fresno County health inspectors in May and June, bringing to 39 the number of closures since July 2018.

The most recent closures for food-safety violations reported by the Fresno County Department of Public Health were all in Fresno.

Two were for a lack of hot water (necessary for hand-washing and washing dishes at an appropriate temperature). One was for a refrigerator that wasn’t cold enough.

One week-long closure was for contamination of water by fecal coliform bacteria detected in a water sample.

The 39 closures in the 12-month period from July 2018 through June 2019 is down from 2017-18, when about 75 restaurants or food-service facilities were ordered closed for violations.

Three of the latest closures of businesses – Bingo Super Market, La Michocana Plus, and Tacos Tijuana – are in southeast Fresno; the fourth, R&L Market, is west of the city near the Central High School West Campus. All four were allowed by inspectors to reopen after correcting their problems.

Bingo Super Market on East Belmont Avenue lacked hot water when inspectors visited the store on May 13, but it was allowed to reopen later that same day after a plumber came in to relight the pilot light on the water heater. Hot water was also the issue at La Michocana Plus on East Tulare Avenue on May 20, when it was closed by inspectors; it was cleared to reopen the next day.

Click a marker on the map below to see details for that location, including the inspection/closure date, reopening date, and reasons for the closure. Zoom in or out for a closer or broader look or move the map to look at other areas of Fresno County. Map by Tim Sheehan / The Fresno Bee

Tacos Tijuana on East Ventura Avenue was closed on June 4 when inspectors found that the walk-in refrigerator was only cooling to 51 degrees, too warm to meet safety standards. After being allowed to sell food that was already in temperature-controlled holding units, it was closed until repair could be made. It was allowed to reopen after a reinspection on June 6.

The water sample that tested positive for fecal coliform bacteria caused inspectors to close the R&L Market on West McKinley Avenue on June 25. The store was able to reopen about a week later, on July 1.

County health specialists can’t be on-site every day. There are about two dozen inspectors covering the entire county, and restaurants are just one of their responsibilities. The county also inspects tattoo or body-piercing parlors, public swimming pools and other sites.

Inspectors for Fresno County typically make routine, unannounced visits to restaurants or other food facilities four times a year. That, officials hope, is enough to keep places on their toes maintaining clean conditions in their kitchens.

Inspectors also respond to complaints when consumers see unsanitary conditions or other situations that they believe endanger food safety.

So if something surfaces during one of the unannounced inspections, like a broken refrigerator or water heater or an infestation of rodents or insects, it begs the question: how long has that problem been going on, and would the restaurateur have fixed it without an inspector ordering a remedy or a closure?

Some problems can be fixed on the spot: adding more bleach to the water used to wipe down cutting boards and food-prep surfaces or making sure that food is covered and stored at the proper temperature, making sure there is toilet paper and paper towels in the restroom, or reminding employees to wear gloves and hairnets.

Other problems can be more administrative, such as making sure permit fees are current, or ensuring proper construction plans have been submitted for a kitchen expansion.

It’s the more serious violations that will prompt closure orders from inspectors.

That can include evidence of mice, rats or cockroaches; refrigerators that don’t keep food cold enough and steam tables that don’t keep food hot enough to inhibit bacteria; a lack of hot water for dishwashing or handwashing, or plumbing problems including backed-up drains and toilets.

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.