9 INVESTIGATES: Health violations uncovered at Charlotte's best restaurants

by: Tina Terry Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - They’re considered by many to be some of the best restaurants in Charlotte, but a Channel 9 investigation uncovered dangerous health violations that could make customers sick.

Channel 9 reviewed inspections of 50 restaurants in Charlotte.

5Church in uptown received one of the lowest scores in May out of any of the restaurants Channel 9 reviewed, which was an 87.50.  Anything below a 90 is considered a "B" grade. 

[LINK: 5Church Inspection Grades]

County health inspector Lynn Lathan said that is below her personal standard.

“This is me personally, I don't eat at places that don't have an "A" grade,” she said.   

Lathan said that if the health department is posting a "B" score, there are more than a couple of things that went wrong during the inspection.

An inspection at 5Church in May revealed violations like food kept at the wrong temperatures and surfaces not properly cleaned and sanitized. 

The inspector observed staff putting on gloves without first washing their hands and a “dishwasher handling soiled (utensils) and then clean utensils without washing hands.” 

The inspector subtracted more points when an employee used a bare hand to prepare ready-to-eat food.

[LINK: 5Church May 2016 Inspection Violations]

"It must be handled with clean gloves or utensils.  It's important especially this time of year when the norovirus is out there and winter vomiting diseases,” Latahn said.

John Smith, who has eaten at the restaurant, was surprised by the inspector’s comments.

“They serve good food, so I wouldn't expect to hear something like that,” he said.

Since that inspection in May, 5Church made a rebound, raising its score in September to a 98 and a 95.50 in December, but it still had critical violations in some of the same areas.

We reached out to 5Church multiple times, but haven’t heard back from management yet.

Most of the high-end restaurants we reviewed had grades in the 90s, but many inspections revealed serious violations.

The Asbury in uptown received deductions for "date markings" during all four of its health inspections in 2016.  An inspector saw “beef scrapple” stored in a cooler during a June 8 inspection, but there was a May 14 date label. The inspector noted it had only an “eight-day hold time”. 

[LINK: The Asbury June 2016 Inspection Violations]

The Asbury said in a statement, "Because we are sourcing directly from farmers rather than using pre-packaged foods with dates on the packages, associates in the past have occasionally forgotten to label and date items going into the refrigerator."

[READ: The Asbury's full statement]

Managers said that after the last inspection, they gave kitchen staff more training to prevent this from happening again.

Vivace Charlotte, in Midtown, also lost points in the "date markings" category during three inspections in 2016.

In December, at South Park sushi bar Yama Asian Fusion, an inspector spotted a chef roll, cut and dispense sushi without using gloves. 

[LINK: Yama Asian Fusion Dec. 2016 Inspection Violations]

Channel 9 uncovered 11 other restaurants that had lost points for the same violation last year.

Nolen Kitchen, on Selwyn Avenue, was one of them.  It lost points twice last year for the violation.  

In a statement, management said, “We have discussed it with them, and all front of the house employees now use gloves when cutting fruit. Gloves are and have always been provided at each kitchen station, and kitchen cleanliness is emphasized every day.” 

We followed Lynn Lathan as she showed us around Bubba’s Bar-B-Q’s kitchen which had a consistent high "A" grade last year. She said that whether the restaurant is a mom and pop shop, or expensive and fancy, it still has to follow proper procedures. 

“They're under the same set of rules,” Lathan said.

She said health scores are important, but even more so are the details of those scores.

We also reached out to Yama Asian Fusion for a comment, but haven’t heard back from them yet.  The management at Vivace declined to comment.

Nolen Kitchen full statement: 

The particular issue we had with handling RTE food with bare hands was a bartender cutting bar fruit without gloves.  We have discussed it with them, and all front of the house employees now use gloves when cutting fruit.  Gloves are and have always been provided at each kitchen station, and kitchen cleanliness is emphasized every day. 

So as was stated there was a management company running Nolen Kitchen for us.  We have recently parted ways, and my partner and I are overseeing the restaurant. We have installed a new management team in the front of the house and back of the house.  We have emphasized the importance of following all health code regulations.  We have invested in repairing equipment that was neglected, and replaced equipment/ fixtures that were ongoing issues.  In addition 2 additional key employees have been sent to the Serve Safe class, and the management conducts front of the house and back of the house lineups daily to discuss issues of the day.  Each day they take one sanitation issue that they discuss with employees.   We take the quality of our experience very seriously, and we strive to ensure not only a great experience, but a safe one as well.  While we constantly strive for a perfect health code score, we do pride ourselves in the fact that we have never scored less then an A in our 13 years of operation.

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