Well, the evidence is in. It’s not a pretty picture.
The health department released reports from the latest inspections of the Roanoke City Market Building’s 10 restaurants on Tuesday. What emerges is not the image of a small rodent issue. Mouse “excreta” – poop to us regular folks – was found in essentially every corner and every stall of the building.
The building was shut down and all its vendors’ licenses suspended after a health department inspection Friday. Read the reports yourselves here. Links are on the left side of the page about half-way down.
Some had worse problems than others.
From the report on Tavern on the Market, for example:
“Observed sliced cheese covered with large numbers of rodent excreta pellets (>20). Observed what appeared to be a rodent gnawed hole in the package of cheese…Observed a rodent excreta pellet inside a package of sliced deli meat.”
A dead mouse seen under the sink during Sept. 11 inspection was still there on Sept. 16.
Mouse pellets seemed to be everywhere, and often in close proximity to food and food preparation areas.
At Paradiso, on metal shelves where containers and bowls are stored.
At Burger in the Square, on a counter near the sandwich press.
At Hong Kong, on top of unprotected single-service items in an open box.
At Chico’s, on a shelf directly above counter with exposed pizza dough.
Under just about every sink, counter and refrigerator in the building.
As if that isn’t enough evidence of a full-bore infestation, at Chico’s, “a live mouse as observed in the dishwashing area … and ran across the Environmental Health Specialist’s foot during the inspection.”
Beyond that, pretty much every restaurant space was cited for being in poor repair and/or in need of cleaning.
In sum, it’s a portrait of a place with issues far more serious than need of a “Fall Cleaning.”
Several questions come to mind.
How did it get this bad without intervention before now?
Will the Market Building ever really return in its old incarnation? Reputations of individual restaurants and the place as a whole are damaged by now. Can they recover without a wholesale makeover of the place that erases from the public’s minds the image now in everyone’s minds?
Will parties who want to overhaul not only the building, but its function, seize the opportunity here push through their agenda? Or maybe the question is only how aggressively they will seize it.
What does this do for the bargaining position of the restaurant owners, long in fear of losing their livelihoods due to changes to the Market Building and trying to hang on?
What about the lost income of not only the owners themselves, but the hourly wage workers who prep and serve the food in many of those restaurants?
And finally, who is to blame? Some resist that question, say it doesn’t matter at this point, but this is a big, big problem, folks. A taxpayer owned building managed by the city has been exposed as a significant health hazard. Personal health, community health, and the livelihood of many business owners were and are at risk.
It’s costing taxpayers money, owners and workers their income, and causing damage to the reputations of everyone involved, including the city.
It’s far from a blameless situation.