WYOMING, Mich, (WOOD) — At Elizabeth’s Kitchen, cockroaches were winning the pest control war.
Kent County Health Department inspectors first found them in March 2015 — live roaches in the kitchen, along with a half-dozen dead roaches.
The fix was easy, or at least they hoped.
Three days later, Elizabeth’s Kitchen emailed proof to the county that its pest control company had sprayed for roaches. Inspectors did not return to follow up.
Six months later, it took a customer complaint — a cockroach on a dining room table — to trigger a response.
A health inspector found a live roach within three seconds of looking for them, according to records obtained by Target 8.
They were crawling out of the dish machine and the oven. Dead roaches were in the wok, in the oven and on a rack with clean dishes.
The health department called it an imminent health risk and, in a rare move, temporarily shut down Elizabeth’s, a family-owned restaurant on 28th Street SW.
While the closing of XO Asian Cuisine in 2016 got lots of publicity, this closing got none.
They were among eight restaurants forced to close by the Kent County Health Department over the last three years — four for cockroach infestations, one for being overrun with mice, a couple for sewer problems and XO Asian Cuisine for a long list of recurring problems.
Restaurants in Kent Co. that closed due to serious violations (2014-2016)
Most reopened a day or two later. XO Asian Cuisine has re-opened under a new name, SoHo Sushi, and with new owners, health officials said.
At Elizabeth’s Kitchen, the owners said the temporary closing actually helped.
“They’re showing us that we have to do a better job,” said restaurant co-owner Victor Castillo.
“It’s a huge incentive but it’s just another tool in the toolbox that we have,” Kent County Health Department Supervisor Max Bjorkman said. “That’s our main goal is to make sure that you know the health department can partner with the restaurant owners to make sure that food safety is a priority, and sometimes that’s what it takes.”
The closing at Elizabeth’s Kitchen forced it to hire a new pest control company.
“The company we had wasn’t doing their job, so we improved our cleaning and stuff and we hire a different company,” the co-owner said. “So since then, we’re doing better.”
Elizabeth’s Kitchen opened a day later, but not before a health inspector found it was much cleaner.
“The lady from the health department said it wasn’t that bad, so we have to fix it right away, so that’s what we did, so we worked hard, that way we can stay in business,” the co-owner said.
A few weeks later, an inspector followed up again, meeting with the owners and the pest control company.
Not all closings lead to success.
In October 2014, the county shut down side-by-side restaurants in the 34th Street Mall on South Division Avenue for roaches.
Since then, inspectors have found 10 priority violations — the kinds that can make you sick — at MI Teirra El Salvador and 19 at Garibaldi III. None were for roaches.
Over three years, Garibaldi III ranks 14th among restaurants for serious violations, according to a Target 8 analysis.
But at Elizabeth’s Kitchen, inspectors have found far fewer violations — four — since it reopened, but none involving roaches.
“We’ve been working really hard on everything, so I think it’s good,” said Castillo, the co-owner. “Come over and see us. We’ve been doing better and better since that day, so come over and see us.”