Restaurant fined for selling food at Waikiki Spam Jam without a permit

Courtesy: Kona Grill

The manager of a new Waikiki restaurant is speaking out after the business was cited for health violations that occurred during last month’s Waikiki Spam Jam.

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) issued a Notice of Violation and Order against Kona Macadamia Inc., dba Kona Grill, for selling food without a permit after being ordered to close.

Health officials say on April 29, Kona Grill operated a food booth at the Waikiki Spam Jam Festival without obtaining a temporary food establishment permit issued by the DOH as required by law.

“It didn’t seem like they were in a rush to close the operation, so even after being told they need to cease and desist, they proceeded to stay open for at least another half-hour until they decided to close,” said Peter Oshiro, DOH environmental health program manager.

The company was fined $5,000 and may request a hearing to contest the notice.

But general manager Katalin Szilagyi told us the restaurant joined the event late, and she wasn’t aware a permit was necessary. When they were notified, she says there was still confusion.

“So we needed to ask, what are the consequences? What do we need to do? And it was a little bit unclear that we had to shut down right away, so he went away, he asked the questions we asked him for him and his supervisor, and came back in about a half an hour, which is how long we stayed open, and said, ‘No, you have to shut down because these are the fines and you have to be shut down and you have to comply with the health department,'” Szilagyi said.

Kona Grill says it was more than willing to cooperate with officials.

“As soon as I got the answers of how serious this was and how serious we need to take this, we went ahead and shut down and had a meeting with the health department and explained to them we did not know and we apologize and this is what the situation is,” Szilagyi said.

The DOH frequents temporary food events to ensure proper food permits are obtained and the conditions of these permits are adhered to. This includes compliance with food safety rules for the preparation and source of foods sold at special events. One of the most serious DOH violations is operating without a permit.

Restaurants, food manufacturers and other food producers that sell food outside of their permitted location at special events like the Waikiki Spam Jam Festival are required to obtain a “Temporary Food Establishment” permit. Organizers of these special events also need to ensure that all of their participating vendors have the necessary permits to sell or distribute food to protect public health.

“We see this all the time, so at a lot of events, the normal standard operating procedure is telling them to close at this event,” Oshiro said. “There was also another food group that was operating without a permit. They were ordered to do the same thing and they closed immediately.”

So what’s being done to ensure the rules are being followed?

Kat Lin-Hurtubise, owner of Gourmet Events Hawaii, said in a statement:

“As the Spam Jam logistics coordinator, we sent out clear instructions to the participating restaurant that they need to fulfill specific requirements, including a temporary food permit.

“In Spam Jam’s 15 year history, we have never had an issue arise. Unfortunately in this particular case, the restaurant did not submit for a health permit to the Department of Health.

“Going forward, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that restaurants comply.”

Kona Grill says it plans to return for next year’s Spam Jam with the proper permit in place.

We asked if the restaurant would appeal the fine. We’re told the restaurant’s corporate ownership will have to be consulted.

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