Sticker fixer: A restaurant pays a price for hiding a health alert

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It’s a cliche that a cover-up can be worse than the initial offense and, no, today’s topic has nothing to do with the anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

The subject is food safety and a Downtown restaurant that used potted plants to conceal a warning posted by the Allegheny County Health Department.

The Chinatown Inn on Third Avenue was cited last month for 13 critical health code violations including holding food at unsafe temperatures and having a fruit fly infestation. As a result, the health department posted a yellow “consumer alert” decal at the entrance on July 24, and it was to remain in place until a subsequent re-check satisfied inspectors.

The same inspector who had issued the alert was going by the restaurant a day later when he noticed a large palm positioned on the sidewalk so that the sign was obscured. A second plant was similarly situated in the vestibule, blocking the other side of the notice. This happened before the restaurant was re-inspected and the alert was removed.

Endangering customer health by violating standards for food safety was bad enough, but the cover-up was worse. That egregious act showed a lack of respect for the dining public, who rely on health inspectors to ensure that meals are prepared in a safe manner.

The restaurant was fined $800, which should be a warning to any restaurant owners with similar ideas regarding violations or placards that will be part of the county's new A-B-C grading system, set to debut as soon as this fall.

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