A popular restaurant on Waialae Avenue remains closed due to a roach infestation.
St. Louis Drive-In voluntarily shut down after the state Department of Health reported seeing more than 200 live roaches and rat droppings during a recent inspection.
Despite what was found, the restaurant was allowed to keep its green placard so we went to the DOH to find out why.
There’s a legal loophole in the way the current DOH rules are written, but we’re told it is being updated and restaurants can expect to see changes soon.
During a May 9, 2017 inspection, live roach nests were removed and live roaches were seen crawling on virtually all areas of the kitchen inside St. Louis Drive-In, but the green “pass” sign is still is still displayed in the window.
The Department of Health told KHON2 that under the existing administrative rules, the state is only allowed to issue placards on routine inspections, routine follow-up inspections and foodborne illness investigations.
“Because this was a general complaint brought on against the establishment, we don’t have the legal right to change the placard,” Peter Oshiro with the DOH Sanitation branch, said.
The DOH said it recognized the flaw and has been working for over a year to get it changed.
“We’ve actually had the governor sign our new rules that allow us now to placard any establishment for any type of inspection at all so that will close that legal loophole,” Oshiro said.
The health department says restaurants are required to be inspected 2-3 times a year.
“This is Hawaii so the occasional roach or insect will fly in and out but our inspectors are trained enough to see whether that’s an infestation problem or just a rogue cockroach that flew inside,” Oshiro said. “If they refuse to or didn’t want to (close) and we had to order them to close, then the health department would decide to take legal action against them.”
The DOH said it’s tweaking its rules and regulations for the foodservice industry.
“So we’re actually going to require industry now to have mandatory food safety training so at least one responsible person at the facility while they’re open for business needs to have formal certification in that,” Oshiro said.
KHON2 spoke with a pest control specialist who said roach infestations can take a while, but if there’s food, water, and shelter, it can grow fast.
“A great, great majority of our establishments do a great job in keeping roaches and rodents out of there establishments,” Oshiro said.
The DOH said there will be a follow-up inspection at St. Louis Drive-In sometime in the near future.
The rule changes for the placard system will go into effect on May 29.