LINCOLN, Maine — Eighteen health code violations, including seven marked “critical” because they could contribute to food-borne illness, forced the temporary closure of a popular Chinese restaurant on Main Street, state officials said Wednesday.
Owners at Wing Wah chose the temporary shutdown Tuesday at the urging of Sharron Hinckley, an inspector with the Health Inspection Program of the Division of Environmental Health of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Such actions are relatively rare, said Linda Brown, director of the Health Inspection Program within DHHS.
The program’s nine inspectors conducted about 1,100 inspections of the eateries statewide from September 2008 to July 2009 and recommended closure about 15 times, Brown estimated.
“It was severe enough for us to push for voluntary closure, which they did. They were very cooperative,” Brown said Wednesday of the restaurant’s owner, Wing Wah Inc. “It’s unfortunate, but restaurants have these violations and our job is to help correct them.”
According to the inspection report released Wednesday, the violations Hinckley found during a routine inspection on Tuesday included:
– Cooked or prepared foods that could be subject to “cross contamination.”
– Food handling bins that were “very dirty” and sinks that were “dirty.”
– Several foods, including chicken, rice and teriyaki beef, were left out unprotected or stored at unacceptably high temperatures.
– Food contact surfaces, knives and other food preparation equipment that were not cleaned between uses.
– A failure to properly label working containers used to store poisonous or toxic materials and sanitizers.
– Unclean kitchen fans and unclean wiping cloths that were not stored properly to be kept clean.
– Sinks in the basement area being used for meat preparation that were being contaminated by leftover meat residue.
– Establishment floors, walls and floor trim that needed cleaning.
Hinckley ordered all restaurant employees to take a “safe serve class” within 30 days of her inspection. The restaurant will not reopen until all violations are corrected and certified as such by another inspection, Brown said.
Wing Wah’s owner is Michael Chan, according to town records. No one answered the telephone at the restaurant Wednesday. A worker helping clean the restaurant on Tuesday said the restaurant’s owner was not available for comment.
A sign on the restaurant’s front door Wednesday said the restaurant was “closed for renovations.”
Typically, restaurants or other eateries are asked to close when three or more critical violations, or 10 or more minor violations, are discovered, Brown said.
Wing Wah for many years has been a popular Lincoln Lakes region eatery and bar, with country-style booths, carpeting and wood paneling. It is known for drawing large crowds on holidays and Thursday nights. The restaurant’s Internet Facebook page, called “I Love Wing Wah!” had 704 members as of Wednesday night.
An inspection at Wing Wah in 2006 found eight violations, including three critical violations, while one in 2004 listed two violations, including one critical.