County Health Department Needs To Improve Local Restaurant Food Safety Enforcement
City of Douglas officials say they “don’t want to pass judgment”, but the Allegan County Health Department needs to clamp down on restaurants for food safety violations at local eateries such as Kalico Kitchen in Douglas, which was recently featured on the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible.”
The council commented about the issue during Monday night’s meeting, citing the July 14 television show - which did a segment on the Kalico Kitchen - repeatedly repeatedly referred to the local restaurant’s pre-renovation condition as a “filthy kitchen.”
City officials said the city had received three e-mails, including from viewers from as far away as Virginia and California, expressing disappointment at the city for allowing the restaurant to continue to operate.
“This is not to pass judgment (on Kalico), but the health department needs to (address issues of food safety and uncleanliness) with all of our restaurants because that really is not good news for all of us here,” said Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley.
“We all pay taxes for that board (the Allegan County Health Department),” said Wiley, referring to his contention the health department is not doing its job, yet continues to get taxpayer support.
Back in April, the more than 30-year-old restaurant hosted its grand re-opening after undergoing an overhaul assisted by renowned British chef Robert Irvine.
With his show, Irvine aims to help struggling restaurant by updating menus, retraining staff and making aesthetic changes over the course of two days and with a $10,000 budget.
The show then disseminates the news about the new improvements to the area’s restaurant-goers.
After watching the program about Kalico Kitchen, the e-mails received by the city - and similar ones sent to The Local Observer - were highly critical of the city and the county health department for letting the restaurant operate in what many described as “deplorable conditions” prior to its renovation.
“Tonight’s Restaurant Impossible featuring Kalico Kitchen reveals a shocking level of neglect by your local government. I would never consider a visit to any establishment—restaurant, hotel, and so on—in a municipality that has no health department (or if you have one, one that is run SO poorly that the disgusting conditions shown on national television are allowed to exist).
“It is an indictment, clearly, of the owners, but even more so of the people you’d hope were governing,” wrote Chuck Green from Glen Allen, Virginia in an e-mail to the city.
Douglas city staff say the e-mails have been forwarded to the health department. So far, the Allegan County Health Department has not responded.
The Food Network’s own website relates the following: “Since the renovation, ‘the kitchen staff is keeping the kitchen clean and the wait staff has a much better attitude,’ according to Laura (a server).
“The restaurant has enjoyed a mix of returning and first-time diners, and Laura added that any customers have been impressed with the updated decor. In terms of the new menu, she told us that Kalico is ‘in the process of updating the old menu, and adding some of the specials on the paper menus.”
Kalico Kitchen owner Catherine Witt has not commented on the recent fall-out from the show.
Witt has acknowledged to many local residents the restaurant - and herself - have experienced serious financial difficulties and was hopeful the “Restaurant Impossible” renovations would help turn the business around.
Reportedly Witt has spoken with real estate companies about selling the Kalico Kitchen, but the possibility remains, Witt conceded in earlier statements, that the bank holding loan notes on the restaurant may foreclose if a sale is not realized.