Health inspectors closed 5 Fresno restaurants in August. What problems did they find?

After a July in which no restaurants were closed for health concerns in Fresno County, inspectors found violation serious enough to warrant closing five Fresno restaurant for a day or two in August.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health reported inspectors closed two restaurants for cockroach infestations, two for damage after fires and one for a lack of hot water – all violations of California health regulations that call for suspending operations.

None were closed for more than three days before they were reinspected and were allowed to reopen.

Since the start of this year, that brings to 20 the number of Fresno County restaurants that have been ordered closed – some for only a few hours, some for a day or two, others for a week or more.

The August closures were:

McDonald’s on Cedar Avenue just south of Herndon Avenue, closed for three days because of fire damage.

Charley’s Grilled Subs in the Fashion Fair mall food court, closed for a day after inspectors found cockroaches in the kitchen area.

Arby’s on Ashlan Avenue just west of Cedar Avenue, closed for a day because of a lack of hot water.

Guapo’s Tacos on Butler Avenue at Orange Avenue, closed for a day because of a lack of water and for cockroaches.

Nho Cafe on McKinley Avenue at First Street, closed for a day because of smoke damage from a fire.

Inspectors for Fresno County typically make routine, unannounced visits to restaurants or other food facilities four times a year. But there are only about two dozen inspectors covering the entire county, and in addition to restaurants they also check up on public swimming pools, tattoo and body-piercing parlors, and other sites.

That means inspectors aren’t constantly looking over a restaurant operator’s shoulders to make sure everything is clean and safe. The health department’s hope is that the routine inspections are enough to keep places on their toes to maintain clean conditions not only in their kitchens, but in their dining areas, restrooms and storage rooms. Inspectors also visit restaurants in response to complaints when customers report unsanitary conditions or other hazards to food safety.

If a violation is spotted during an unannounced inspection, however, it forces inspectors to wonder how long the problem has been going on – and whether the restaurateur would have fixed it without an inspector ordering a remedy or closure?

Some problems are serious enough to warrant an immediate closure for health and safety. Those include infestations of cockroaches, mice or rats; refrigerators that are too warm and hot-food storage that is too cool to keep bacteria from growing; a lack of running water, or water that’s not hot enough for hand-washing and dishwashing, or backed-up plumbing such as drains or toilets.

Other problems can be fixed on the spot without closing. For example, adding more bleach to the water used to wipe down cutting boards and food-prep surfaces, ensuring 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.

Fresno County’s health inspections are available to search and view online at www.fresnohealthinspections.org.

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

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.