DENVER -- Every week, the FOX31 Problem Solvers we go behind kitchen doors for a look at restaurants to ensure food safety.
Inspectors fine restaurants for repeat critical violations and for issues like no hot water or a pest infestation.
From inspections to collections, it is an expensive and time-consuming process designed to keep the public safe.
Hundreds of restaurants owe $500,000 in fines.
“We will turn them over to a collection agency," said Danica Lee of the Denver Environmental Health Department.
"However, if we are still seeing issues at a facility and they are not paying fines, we have a number of tools we might use including sending someone to court.”
Three locations owe at least $2,000 in fines and face possible court action.
The violator, a repeat offender on the report card, owed $5,000 in fines for critical health code violations.
Inspections show the health department shut down the location at 777 E. 17th Avenue in Denver for not having hot water.
Other issues include:
- Rodent droppings
- Refrigerators not keeping food cold
- Grooved cutting boards
The owner closed the restaurant but has another on on 32nd Avenue.
The owner was not at the restaurant and employees didn't know why the health department hadn't been paid.
“We will continue to comply with all applicable health regulations," the owner said in an email.
In June, the health department shut down the restaurant on West Alameda Avenue for not having hot water and issued a $2,000 fine.
Other mistakes included:
- Employee drink next to chicken
- Toxic grill cleaner was not stored properly
- Several food items held wrong temperature
The owner said in an email he did not know about the $2,000 in fines that were owed.
The health department maintains it mailed the citations to the restaurant and the owner is responsible.
Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches -- 2325 E. Colfax Ave.
The Denver location on East Colfax Avenue was fined $2,000 for operating without hot water.
Other issues last year included:
- Toxic sanitizer or no sanitizer
- Mold in ice machine
- No food thermometer
The owner said the check for the fines is in the mail.
“We’ve seen the current fine system result in fewer violations," Lee said. "So, really that is the purpose of the fines to achieve compliance.”
How restaurants appear on the Report Card
Restaurant Report Card features health inspections in the city and county of Denver, Jefferson County, Weld County, Broomfield and restaurants under the jurisdiction of the Tri-County Health Department. The Tri-County Health Department includes Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
An inspection is a “snapshot” of what is happening during the day and time of the inspection. On any given day, a restaurant could have more or fewer violations than noted in an inspection. Also, at the time of an inspection, violations are recorded and can be corrected prior to the inspector leaving the restaurant. If violations are not corrected, a follow-up inspection is scheduled.
The criteria FOX31 Denver uses to give a restaurant a failing grade includes the evaluation of two unannounced inspections by county health inspectors.
A failing restaurant must have five or four critical violations on their most recent regular inspection and five or four critical violations on the previous regular inspection.
The restaurant may also fail for nine or ten or more violations in one inspection. Health inspectors may conduct critical or follow-up inspections, due to the number of critical violations found during a regular inspection.
Those inspections may also be considered for our reports. We recognize restaurants with two regular inspections in a row, with no critical violations, by awarding them an A.