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In this situation, should I call the Health Department?

We have a favorite restaurant that we go to for sushi in our area. For the past 15 years, we've never noticed any problems. The staff is nice--they know us and know what we like to order. Two weeks ago we went for an early dinner. While waiting for our main course, we noticed a cockroach crawling along the wall by the next booth. We told the waitress about it and she told us that the restaurant next door to them never has an exterminator in the place. She told me that their restaurant (the sushi place) sprays twice a week and every three weeks uses one of those fog bombs. However, since the place next door does nothing about the problem, it has been causing the sushi place to have a problem.

Now I'm not naive enough to believe that restaurants never have problems with insect infestations but do believe that good restaurants will do all they can to avoid the problem. I got curious and looked up both the sushi restaurant and their neighbor's health department inspection records. The sushi place has had little in the way of problems. No mention of cockroaches until about 6 months ago when the inspector saw two of them. The restaurant sprayed and the health department did a follow-up and found no problems. However, the next door neighbor has had numerous critical violations and the last report mentioned a can of Raid kept by food which suggests that they do have a cockroach problem and are not calling in a professional.

Here's my dilemma---our waitress said that the sushi place owners have told the landlord what is going on but they haven't called the health department because they don't want to get the other restaurant in trouble. I think they're being too nice and by doing so it could negatively affect their business. With all that in mind, should I call the health department? And if so, what exactly do I say? Do I tell them what the waitress told us or do I phrase it differently? Thanks for any advice--we don't want to give up on our favorite local place for sushi!

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  1. If you want to call, then call and say that you were in a restaurant where you saw roaches that you think came from next door.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TampaAurora

      Thanks--good idea. I've never eaten in the place next door but from the outside it doesn't look clean, so I could mention that to the health department.

    2. If it makes you feel better than call the Health Department but if the owner indeed has an exterminator coming in twice a week she is doing as much as she can to eradicate the problem. What more is she expected to do?

      5 Replies
      1. re: KTinNYC

        Yes, the sushi place uses an exterminator but as long as the place next door doesn't do its part, it's a losing battle for the sushi place. It's like apartment buildings--you spray one apartment, they just go next door.

        1. re: MizYellowRose

          So why would you call the health department on the restaurant that is doing all they can?

          1. re: KTinNYC

            She means to call the health department about the place next door, I think.

            1. re: KTinNYC

              She never said she was calling the health department on the restaurant that's been using the exterminator. Go back and read the OP.

              1. re: iluvtennis

                I reread the post and I probably was mistaken but it's not 100% clear. If the OP is going to call the Health Department on the neighbor she should probably have proof but it probably doesn't matter because it seems like the neighbor is already on the DOH's radar.

        2. One cockroach does not a phone call make. If you had seen a nest, a rat, or something severe, that's another issue. But the health department will probably laugh off a single sighting. And if the inspection reports you saw show low scores, the other restaurant is already on their radar. I wouldn't jeopardize your favorite sushi joint over a single bug.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mojoeater

            Why would the sushi joint be jeopardized?

            1. re: iluvtennis

              If you say you saw a roach in one restaurant that you THINK came from the place next door, the health department will investigate both. If there is truly an insurmountable problem, but could get closed until the issue is resolved.

          2. Thanks everyone. For the record, if I called the health department, it would NOT be to report our favorite sushi place but rather the place next door. Thanks to those who got what I was saying. I'm just concerned that if the dirty place next door doesn't clean up its act, it could negatively affect our favorite sushi place.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MizYellowRose

              I'm glad you called. You are so correct that if everyone in the center, as in the next door restaurant, doesn't do their part then it's a losing battle, and I would hate to see you lose your sushi spot!

              1. re: MizYellowRose

                Thanks for coming back and clearing this up for me. I really could not tell you intentions from your OP.

                1. re: MizYellowRose

                  I think you're absolutely right to call the health department. Clearly explain the situation and that you do not think it is your sushi place, but the place next door. No matter who's the culprit, it sounds like two restaurants might be infested, however. And you never know: no matter how much you love and trust your sushi place, it might not be the first time somebody has seen a roach there.

                2. Id call the Health Dept., and let them figure out where the cockroaches are coming from. That and I'd stop eating at the restaurant in question.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: swsidejim

                    The DOH won't care where the roaches are coming from, they aren't exterminators. They will just see roaches as a violation and issue points and fines to whatever establishment that harbors the beasties and in this case it is the favorite sushi joint, despite their best efforts, as well as the presumed dirty neighbor.

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      I am ok with that.

                      What would you expect the sushi restaurant to say? oh yeah... the roaches are ours..., of course they are going to blame the neighbor establishment when confronted by a customer to try to save their reputation. Only hearing one side of the story on this one, I would find a new sushi restaurant.

                      Let the Health Dept. sort it out, and fine/close the offending establishment.

                      1. re: swsidejim

                        From the OP:
                        "I got curious and looked up both the sushi restaurant and their neighbor's health department inspection records. The sushi place has had little in the way of problems. No mention of cockroaches until about 6 months ago when the inspector saw two of them. The restaurant sprayed and the health department did a follow-up and found no problems. However, the next door neighbor has had numerous critical violations and the last report mentioned a can of Raid kept by food which suggests that they do have a cockroach problem and are not calling in a professional."

                        Now what part of that paragraph are you guys not getting.? Yes the sushi place was inspected and found 2 roaches, but the follow up gave it a clean report. The place next door has numerous violations, and a can of RAID next to food. I think both sides of the story have been represented by MizYellowRose.

                        1. re: danhole

                          must be a big city health dept. out where I live the offending place would be closed by now, if not by the Health Dept. , by the word of mouth of customers.

                          Id still call the Health Dept. and let them sort it out, and find somewhere else to eat. Cockroaches are cockroaches no matter where they originate.

                          1. re: swsidejim

                            Jim,

                            She has called the DOH. I hope she follows up on this with results.

                            I don't want you to get the impression that seeing a cockroach in a place is fine by me. It totally is NOT! First of all we live in Houston, Tx and roaches are everywhere. We used to live in an apartment and no matter what we did we could not control them, even though the landlord exterminated on a regular basis. She kept telling me it was my fault, since we had small children and a couple of cats . . . Uh, what?? When we moved into our house, and it is an old house, we sprayed everything before it hit the door. 20 years later we still do not have any roaches, and if one of those large tree roaches gets in the cats play with it until it is dead.

                            But if I am in a restaurant, and I see one single roach, then that is that. Never again, even if we really like the place. Creeps me out, big time. And one more thing; I am very sensitive to insecticides. They make it hard for me to breath. If a place is spraying a lot, even if you can't smell it, it would still affect me, so telling me you sprayed a couple times a week would also be a good reason not to go back.

                            1. re: danhole

                              All good, cats are great at keeping bugs at bay arn't they. I have never lived in a place with roaches, but my cats hunt down all the spiders, and flies that may dare enter our house.

                              I will be interested to see the follow up as well, and like you no matter what, if I saw a roach at a restaurant I would not return.

                              1. re: danhole

                                My parents are immaculate and tented their house several times when I was growing up. All the bugs including cockroaches came back, regardless. They were pretty vigilant about doing yearly pest control and calling when any bugs popped up. I think it depends on a variety of factors and cleanliness is only one of many. In some climates, they're pretty hard to keep away.

                                1. re: danhole

                                  Interesting how these topics become like a game of "telephone" we played when we were kids. I can't find anywhere that the OP says she HAS called the DOH. Her posts have all been about her trying to figure out if she should and what to say if she does.

                                  My guess is that a health inspector would site both places if he/she find roaches in both (that's their job). Repeat visits should clear the sushi place, but sometimes the offending site will keep contaminating the neighbor and whether the inspector can sort it out would depend on the quality of the inspector. I would think the sushi place should call based on their own customers' concerns and the possibility that their business could suffer from their neighbor's neglect.

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    Midlife---You're right--I haven't called the health department yet. I wanted to get some advice because the waitress told me that the owners of the sushi place didn't want to get the restaurant next door in trouble! Given what the waitress told me I wondered what I should say when I call the health department. Once I figure out which is the correct number to call (sometimes when dealing with county governments while on the phone can end up getting your transferred to one department after another which is very annoying!). Given what everyone has written, I think I'll call and say that I was in the dirty restaurant and saw cockroaches. It's not true---I've never set foot in the place--just looked in from the outside and could tell it wasn't clean--but I figure by telling the health department that I saw cockroaches in there, won't cause the sushi place any problems. Thanks to you and all who took the time to respond. After I call, I will post a follow-up.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      Oops! I'm bad. I didn't see the word "if" in there! Well she should call, at any rate. Aren't you able to remain anonymous when you call? If so she should urge her sushi owners to do it. Sorry about that.

                                      1. re: danhole

                                        If these two restaurants are sharing a common wall, the extermination process will inevitably send the bugs to one side or the other. Unless both establishments are simultaneously vigilant, they're just going to continue to share those critters.

                                        I havent had a bug problem for a long time, but during college when I lived in an apartment we were told specifically that we could NOT use the full-room bug bomb because it would only send the roaches running downstairs to the next apartment. The landlord felt that the stuff didnt kill the insects, merely relocated them temporarily. We could chase them all over the building, but they would never really leave..... so I did. ....

                        2. A follow-up---I called the health department today to report the dirty restaurant. Yes, they did ask for my name and phone number but before I gave them that info, I asked if the dirty restaurant would be told my name. They told me that my name wouldn't be mentioned. What I then told them was that I went into the restaurant 2 weeks ago and it didn't look clean plus I saw a cockroach. I also said that I heard the restaurant next door was affected by the dirty restaurant's poor practices. Well...we'll see what happens now... It would be nice if they shut down the dirty place, but I doubt that will happen.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: MizYellowRose

                            I worked with a restauranteur that was in the same position as the Sushi owners. He spent a fortune or exterminators and his business was in jeopardy due to another tenant. He finally consulted his lease (neighbors were violating maintenance/sanitation standards) and an attorney. His attorney sent letters to the shared landlord, bug infested restaurant owners and the Health Department. To make a long story short, the Health Department worked with him by addressing the landlord as well. The landlord ended up evicting the bad tenant and paid for extermination over a period of time which included having to remove a wall to get to the nest. He had to play a little bit of hardball, but it was worth it to save his business. Might be something the owners of your favorite Sushi place might want to consider. Cheers!

                            1. re: oldbaycupcake

                              Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, I think the owners of the sushi place are too nice. The waitress was worried about getting the owners of the dirty place in trouble. As I said to my husband, the owners of the sushi place should consider that the dirty restaurant just may end up hurting the sushi restaurant. Considering all that, I'm glad that I called the health department.

                              1. re: MizYellowRose

                                Too nice? Most small independent restauranteurs have everything they own invested into their business. By putting up with the situation they are not only putting their business and reputation in jeopardy but possibly their home and other personal assets. Roaches in the FOH will kill a restaurant. It's no time to be nice. If they aren't stepping up and getting the landlord and health department involved to save their business perhaps there is more to this situation than you are aware or the waitress was willing to share. I wouldn't dine there until the situation was corrected, even if it was one of my favorite places.

                            2. re: MizYellowRose

                              "What I then told them was that I went into the restaurant 2 weeks ago and it didn't look clean plus I saw a cockroach."

                              Wait! A few posts up, you said that you have never been in there, but that you intended to say that you were. So, is that still the case? Did you call the DOH on a place that you have never been in?

                              1. re: Bite Me

                                Yup. I called the health department even though I've never been in there. As you can see from my response, they are well aware that the dirty place has a cockroach problem. I suppose I could have called them and said that I looked in the place and could tell it was filthy--which is what I have done in the past. When the inspector goes there tomorrow, hopefully there will be a change for the better.

                            3. And now yet another update---The health department restaurant inspector called me this morning. She told me that she was aware that the dirty restaurant had a cockroach problem and was planning to do a follow-up inspection on them come Monday. I thanked her for calling. We'll see what, if anything, happens now.

                              1. I would stay out of it for oh so many reasons, including lack of personal knowledge about the place next door. Let the owner of your favorite sushi restaurant handle this, if he or she even wants to.

                                As to the favorite sushi restaurant, I would not eat there after hearing that it uses a fog bomb, but that's just me.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Bite Me

                                  I understand your concerns about the fog bomb. However, you do have to wonder how many restaurants use them and we are all blissfully unaware. I usually don't look up health department restaurant inspection records because sometimes it's not good to have too much information because you may never eat out again! The only times I do look up records is if I eat in--or just go into--a restaurant that is filthy.

                                  1. re: Bite Me

                                    Agreed. They poison the entire place with those things. Plus, I would never consider going back to a restaurant at which I spotted a roach, no matter how much I liked it. It's gross.

                                    1. re: Bite Me

                                      I wonder if the health departments in some jurisdictions allow the use of fog bombs and others don't... My husband and I have decided that we will look for another sushi place near us. The way we look at it, eventually we are going to downsize and move out of the area, so finding a new sushi place was inevitable. However, in the meantime, there is another place nearby that gets good Zagat ratings but we weren't impressed---we went there once and the staff acted like they were doing us a favor by waiting on us. On top of that, my husband asked if they had non alcoholic beer, the waiter said "no". Then my husband asked if they had regular beer, the waiter said "no". After he said "no", we saw him bring beer to another table! I don't care how good the sushi is, we won't go back to that place. So...back to looking elsewhere. Thanks for all your responses. If I hear from the health department after they go to the dirty restaurant tomorrow, I will post back.

                                    2. I *would* be concerned about a restaurant fog bombing. I know in places where i've worked with food, fog bombs were not allowed because they get into everything and on every surface.