Popular eateries given yellow cards for food safety violations

Oahu restaurants are working to improve the food safety ratings they received from the state.

On Monday, health inspectors visited 12 restaurants and handed out six yellow cards and six green cards.

A green placard means the restaurant passed and a yellow means two or more major violations. A red card means a closure because of an imminent health hazard.

A lot of the fixes were done on the spot, so some restaurants that received yellow cards on Monday got the green light Tuesday, including Nico’s at Pier 38.

“Were you surprised with the yellow placard?” KHON2 asked.

“Yeah, I was, because in 10 years in business, we never got any violation,” said owner Nico Chaize.

Chaize says the yellow card he got Monday was for three violations. “They were for leaving high temperature on the cooking line. We went 44 degrees instead of 41 degrees, which is new regulation,” he said.

But he made corrections on the spot, and Tuesday morning, a state inspector returned and gave the restaurant a green “pass” placard.

“It’s safer for the customer at the end of the day,” Chaize said.

Nico’s was one of six eateries that received a yellow sign Monday, on the first day of the state’s food safety rating program.

Another restaurant, Café Julia in downtown Honolulu, also received a yellow card for 13 violations.

Customers at Cafe Julia said they weren't bothered by the restaurant's yellow rating.
Customers at Cafe Julia said they weren’t bothered by the restaurant’s yellow rating.

Owner Emerson Ribao says the refrigerator was constantly being opened Monday, and that’s why the temperature increased so quickly.

“See right now it’s 40, and this was reading 51 yesterday,” he said.

The restaurant was also cited because all of the containers in the refrigerator must be labeled. On Monday, one of the containers was not.

Ribao also cleaned an ice machine, which was a problem.

“It builds some discoloration. It’s not really bad, but it’s just discoloration because of temperature. You just have to wipe it,” he said.

Ribao also had to add a notice to the menus, warning customers about the possible dangers of eating raw or undercooked food.

Despite the violations, Cafe Julia continues to operate as normal. On Tuesday, it fed hundreds of people who were there for a convention.

“It didn’t scare you off or anything?” KHON2 asked.

“I’m hungry. I’ll eat it. It’s okay,” said one customer.

“I read why. It was food temperature. That’s very common,” another customer said.

Since the restaurant has 48 hours to correct the violations, an inspector will be back Wednesday.

“If we have to go back three successive times for follow-up inspections and the items are still not corrected, at that point we’d entertain going to what we call a notice of violation,” said Peter Oshiro with the Department of Health.

Inspectors can visit up to 25 restaurants a day.

They’ll begin visiting restaurants on the neighbor islands next month.

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