Many Calgarians (including this reporter) were shocked to hear the popular chain of Nellie’s restaurants and its owner have been fined a total of $61,780 for 30+ Public Health Act violations! And the even more disturbing thing is that some of those violations dated back to 1997, over 12 years ago!
CTV Calgary reported “Nellie’s fined for health code violations” (emphasis added),
Roxanne Taylor-King admitted there were 43 violations in her five restaurants: Nellie’s Cosmic Cafe, Nellie’s Kitchen, Nellie’s on 4th, Nellie’s on 90th and Nellie’s on Kensington.
Some of the violations include mouse droppings found on food in the kitchen; perishable food not being kept at a proper temperature; food not being handled safely by staff; and utensils not being cleaned and sanitized properly.
According to Calgary Herald report “Calgary’s Nellie’s restaurants fined for public health violations“,
[…] “Failure to meet the minimum standard of care is a serious concern,” said the judge [Provincial court Judge Barbara Veldhuis]. “It is for the protection of the public. Compliance is needed to protect the health and safety of society.””
[…] “A tearful Taylor-King said outside court she was devastated by the charges and that it was difficult for her, a single mother, to keep proper monitoring of all the locations.”“
More on the “tearful” out of court “rationalizing” later.
This reporter was surprised that something was missing in a CBC radio report and the above two media reports. You see, a very important online consumers tool was NOT mentioned. The powerful and comprehensive online “Calgary and Area Environmental Health Inspection Reports” tool was launched over 18 months ago to allow all Albertans to see the latest health inspection reports of restaurants in Alberta. Yes, Albertans can check to see if the restaurants we go to have “mouse droppings” as one of their problems!
Alberta Health Services has added a lot more inspection reports to the online database since its June 2008 launch. And all Albertans and Calgarians should use this tool at least once to look at the reports of their favourite restaurants. When this reporter tried the tool in 2008, as expected, most restaurants came out passing all inspections. But to this reporter’s surprises, some restaurants that were thought to be clean were not at all and with repeat unresolved problems. And then some restaurants that were thought to be “dirty” turned out to have a long list of clean inspection reports.
Customer loyalties and business reputations like Nellie’s restaurants can only be built over time and over many many years. What happened at Nellie’s should serve as a warning and example for all restaurants in Alberta that they should pay attention to the welfare and health of the customers and not simply focusing on the money making side of their restaurant businesses. The simple fact is that customer loyalties take years to build up and sometime take days to destroy. Of course, in the case of Nellie’s, when the violations span over 12 years, one can’t really say the reputations and loyalties were destroyed over days, it was done slowly over 12 years.
Finally, if someone is running a restaurant, there is simply NO excuse of having repeated and unresolved health code violations spanning YEARS! If the owners are unable or unwilling to correct health code violations (because of personal or whatever reasons), then may be the restaurants should be closed until minimum health code standards can be met. Restaurant owners should realize customers, especially the young and old customers, can get seriously sick from bad food. And the long term health consequences are to be paid by unsuspecting customers.
Try the online “Calgary and Area Environmental Health Inspection Reports” tool and see the results yourself. Use the online tool at least once for the restaurants you love, to see if you still want to go there. And use it on restaurants that you are thinking of visiting.
P.S. To me, Nellie’s was always busy, buzzing and had been a well-loved Calgary institution. A Lovemark to me until this sad turn of event (unknown to customers, spanning over 12 years)!