CTV News investigates B.C.'s filthiest restaurants
More than 90 restaurants in Metro Vancouver were told to close their doors after they were found with rodent infestations, unsanitary conditions, or a failure to store food properly, according to an investigation by CTV News.
And many more were repeatedly cited -- but not closed -- for other violations, the most common of which were leaving food out that should be refrigerated, failure to wash surfaces, and not providing hand washing stations to employees.
"We're looking for any signs that might lead us to believe there might be an outbreak of food poisoning," said Nick Losito, Vancouver Coastal Health's director of health protection.
CTV News examined restaurant inspection histories for the past three years in Metro Vancouver to find repeat offenders.
- Related: Check out your favourite restaurant at the Fraser Health or Vancouver Coastal Health websites
- Related: Check out which restaurants have been closed recently in Vancouver Coastal Health
In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, the most common violations were improper cleaning of utensils, inadequate cooling of food that should be refrigerated, and lack of a food safety plan.
The businesses at the Balmoral Hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were shut down four times in four years. Three of those times were for water issues, including lack of potable water.
Esmaiel Hamzaei owns XL Pizza in the hotel. He told CTV News it was the building's issue, but he is often punished for it. When asked if that concerned him, he said, "Of course."
The pub management didn't want cameras inside, but say they've taken over recently and have fixed things up.
One of those restaurants that was shut down was a Vancouver legend -- The Only Seafood Restaurant on Hastings Street.
Once a bustling destination for seafood since it opened the 1920s, The Only is now filled with rat feces and dead insects.
"That one had a history to it, an icon," said Vancouver Coastal Health's Nick Losito. "When I heard about it, I thought, it can't be."
Losito's health department closed The Only last year -- not just because inspectors said the food was a public health hazard, but because inspectors discovered it was a crack den as well.
"We had a sense that some of the food could have been contaminated by the drug storage that was happening," he said. "Even the best places can make terrible mistakes."
Another repeat offender is Miki's Restaurant at Surrey's Guildford Mall. It was one of the worst offenders in the Lower Mainland, given a high hazard rating 10 times in the last four years.
When CTV News visited, inspectors had been there hours earlier and shut the facility down. The manager did tell us he wanted to improve, but he was going to take a few days to clean up.
Inspectors are also on the lookout for pests. Number One Beef Noodle on Willingdon Avenue was cited six times in the past there years for pests, the most of any restaurant in the Fraser region.
We did see that the restaurant had set traps out back for any unwanted creatures, and the restaurant said it addressed problems right away.
"It's our responsibility to make sure safe food is provided to the public," said Fraser Health Authority's Tim Shum. "Our role has been to educate them."
Au Wing Kee in Burnaby has been in business for 10 years. It's been repeatedly cited for staff not washing hands and not storing food properly.
The owner says the restaurant has made needed changes to comply with regulations. That's the common refrain from restaurants that have been repeatedly warned.
It's their livelihood and they don't want to end up a relic like The Only.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward and Mi-Jung Lee