I’m an unabashed breakfast man. It’s literally the first thing I think about every day. Eggs. Toast. Grapefruit. Coffee, juice, granoloa, pancakes, waffles, crepes and hash browns. I like it all. But there is one thing I do not like, and never will: mouse shit. I don’t want it near my morning meal and I sure as shit don’t want it in my morning meal.
And that’s why I’m a bit confused. How is it possible that a restaurant chain that amassed $61,780 worth of fines in five locations over the course of 12 years, including mouse droppings in food, came in second as the best place in Calgary to start your day? Talk about a comeback.
Here’s a little gem from the provincial court judge’s ruling that finally put a price on the consistent failings of owner Roxanne Taylor-King to fix pervasive problems in her restaurants. “AHS [Alberta Health Services] received several complaints including problems with pests and a centipede baked into the top of a mini bun.” I don’t know about you, but if that sounds like the second best place in Calgary to eat brekkie, there is a serious problem with our morning dining options.
So what did Taylor-King have to say for herself when she was finally punished for putting her customers’ health at risk over and over again? Well, she blamed the boom on not being able to get contractors, she blamed the high turnover of staff and she said she’d do better. Speaking to the Calgary Sun about the large fine after her court appearance, Taylor-King said: “It’s not easy, in these times it could conceivably put us out of business. It’s definitely a wake-up call for me.”
So, how is the owner, who didn’t get a proper food handling permit herself until just before the court case last January, doing since then? Well, there are 45 fresh violations at five locations since January 22, 2010, according to the AHS website. The only location to avoid violations was Nellie's on 90th. Some of these are minor infractions that just about every restaurant incurs at some point, but guess what? It includes evidence of vermin onsite and improper food storage, two major, and pervasive, problems that were cited in the judge’s ruling earlier this year.
I have eaten at Nellie’s, which means that my health was put at risk, not through an oversight, but because of a systematic unwillingness to heed warnings and implement basic safety precautions in food handling, sanitation and storage. And now it looks like the same pattern may be repeating. That’s unacceptable.
I trust that when I go out to eat, the place I am going to is reasonably clean. I’m not a bacteria freak either. I think you should roll around in the dirt from time to time and I don’t obsessively wash my hands. But mouse shit? Centipedes? Forty-five violations in the five months since receiving a huge fine?
“She was given many, many, many chances and in the Judge’s view she should not have been in operation,” according to a summary of the court decision against Taylor-King.
So go ahead generous Calgary, give Taylor-King many, many, many more chances to clean up her act, but I’m going to pass. The only little black flakes I enjoy on my eggs are from freshly ground pepper.