Unlicensed Port LaBelle Restaurant Flouts Laws
LABELLE, FL. -- Recent happenings at the Port LaBelle Inn's restaurant indicates that Maine's Best Seafood restaurant may be one of LaBelle worst food spots, or at least dirtiest. Food inspectors have been publicly citing the operator Well Done Food Concepts, Inc., doing business as Maine's Best Seafood, for dozens of critical food safety violations after numerous inspections over the last seven months.
The Sunday Morning News this week discovered two public and three "hidden" reports relating to the poor food safety history of Maine's Best at the Port LaBelle Inn.
In November 2006, the restaurant was cited with 11 critical safety violations. Included were food being stored in ice used for drinks, vegetables stored on the floor, a buildup of slime in the ice machine, handwashing cleanser lacking at sinks in bathroom, kitchen, and dishwashing area, stove hood fire suppression system inspection out of date by 15 months, and no proof of required employee training.
In April 2007, the restaurant was inspected again and this time 13 critical violations and 2 non-critical were found. This time previous uncorrected violations were again cited and new ones including storing raw meat on shelves above uncovered soups and sauces, food stored on floors, uncovered soups and foods stored in dry storage and cooler, employee eating in preparation area or other restricted areas, two hand washing stations without provision for drying hands. The stove hood fire suppression system inspection was now out of date by 19 months. And the restaurant was found to be operating without a restaurant license, the manager had no food manager certification, and employees had no proof of training. Proof of manager certification and employee certification is required by Florida.
Although the Department of Professional Regulation has a website with supposedly the latest inspection reports for every restaurant, the Sunday Morning News discovered the department for some reason was holding back on publishing any reports after April 3, 2007 about Maine's Best. After requests for information to the department and finally the Governor's office, we received inspections reports made for April 25 and June 4, and a report indicating why there may have been an official "reluctance" to turn over these reports.
"Hidden Reports" After Local Realtor Gets Sick At Maine's Best - State Clams Up
On April 10, Wanda Bankston, a local LaBelle real estate broker was eating dinner at Maine's Best Seafood and about seven hours later became chilled and then feverish, with diarrhea and vomiting. Bankston said she had been eating mussels at the seafood restaurant. Bankston later called the Hendry Health Department, who contacted the Division of Business and Professional Regulation, Department of Hotels and Restaurants who filled out a foodborne illness form about the incident.
On April 25, the state sent an inspector out to the restaurant finding safety violations again including food surfaces not sanitized or clean and the food manager still not certified. Dirty wiping cloths were found, required thermometers missing, dirty shelves and cooler, and the restaurant was still not licensed.
On June 4, the inspector returned, and no surprise here, still no restaurant license, and more dirt and continuing food safety violations and the inspector recommended the department issue a "administrative complaint." Warnings had previously been given to the restaurant. The restaurant is still open.
Meanwhile Bankston says this week she has not heard from anyone after her complaint to the Health Department until we contacted her. The Sunday Morning News began investigation, making a call to the Division of Hotels And Restaurants on June 15, and after making many more contacts with the state, didn't receive anything until June 27 when the Bankston complaint and two inspection forms were emailed to us. Officials said they "lost" our email address.
Got a complaint about food and restaurants or hotels? Try this email address and see if you get a response: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the DBPR website below to file complaints or inquire about hotel or restaurant reports online.
Florida Food Safety Inspection Reports On Maine's Best
Coming Story: What's Up With The Port LaBelle Inn?