Restaurant Report Card: Some of Tri-County Health’s worst offenders

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DENVER -- In our Restaurant Report Card, FOX31 Denver looks at Tri-County Health Department’s worst eateries under enforcement review.

Tri-County Health Department’s review process includes restaurants with a history of repeat violations, a high number of critical violations or multiple follow up inspections. The following three restaurants are on the county’s civil penalties list.

Mariscos El Pelicano

Mariscos El Pelicano may be named after a pelican, but health inspectors were more concerned with the cockroaches and a dog.

El Pelicano earned an “F” on our Report Card for 19 critical violations in two recent health department inspections in July and May. A health inspector in July found, “A cockroach ... on the wall ... next to the cook line. [And] multiple flies were observed in the food preparation area.”

The report also said, “Open packaged raw chicken and open packaged raw beef were stored together” and “multiple items in the cook line … were 65-75F.” The food must be kept at the correct temperature or it can make people sick.

The owner did not want to do an interview, but sent us a statement that reads in part: “… the critical health code violations have been corrected and we are up to code … management has been dismissed and been replaced due to the many violations that were noted on the manger’s watch. As the saying goes, if you want it done right you have to do it yourself…”   The restaurant is located at 15355 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora.

Dora's Mexican Restaurant and Lounge

Dora’s Mexican Restaurant and Lounge earned an “F” for 21 critical violations in May and March inspections.

The eatery is at 2406 South Parker Road in Aurora.

In a May critical item inspection, “Raw fish was stored above open containers of salsa” and “an employee … was observed washing their hands without using soap or paper towels.”

The reports said raw hamburger, raw chicken and raw steak were held at unsafe temperatures, the sanitizer used to wipe down the cook line contained so much bleach it was toxic and employees demonstrated a lack of food safety knowledge.

FOX31 Denver’s Heidi Hemmat asked Dora, the owner of the restaurant, “Has everything been corrected?” Dora said, “It has been corrected, but this is my livelihood. It’s a challenge, but I’m not going away … and It needs to be right.”

Cielo Kitchen and Bar

Cielo Kitchen and Bar in Arvada gets an “F” for 15 critical violations in a July critical item inspection and a February routine or unannounced inspection.

In July’s report an inspector said, “An employee was observed putting on gloves without washing their hands … talking on a cell phone and return [-ing] to food preparation without washing their hands and changing gloves.”

The health notice said “employees and management lack knowledge on proper hand washing and sanitization process.”

The owner refused to do an on-camera interview, but sent us a statement that says in part: “I take full responsibility for what has happened at the restaurant in the past. We all learn from our mistake. That is why there have been many changes in Cielo restaurant, staff and management team to raise our standards and prevent this from happening in the future.” Cielo passed a follow up inspection last month.

There are 29 restaurants on Tri-County’s civil penalties list. Restaurants on the list may have been issued a fine for failing the inspections.

Thomas Butts with Tri-County Health Department said, “The facilities listed can be in all different stages of the enforcement review process.”

You can see those under review on Tri-County’s web page by clicking on the list that says “Food Facilities Under Enforcement Review.”

How restaurants appear on our Report Card

Restaurant Report Card features health inspections in the city and county of Denver, Jefferson County 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 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 critical violations on their most recent regular inspection and five critical violations on the previous regular 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 perfect regular inspections in a row by awarding them an A.

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