As Long Island restaurants come back to life, diners want to be certain that the food they’re being served is wholesome and fresh. County health departments are doing all they can to ensure just that.
Grace McGovern, a spokesman for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said that the department had 30 inspectors in the field, “working from dawn to dusk since Tuesday,” and visiting from 500 to 600 restaurants each day.
Inspectors determine if the restaurant lost power and, if so, for how long. They assess the food and discard any meat or fish whose temperature dipped below 41 degrees. If the inspectors visit a restaurant that is closed, they leave an “embargo notice” which requires the restaurant to call the health department before reopening. Restaurants that get the OK to reopen are issued an emergency inspection report. McGovern said that restaurants are not required to display the report, “but customers should feel free to ask to see it.” Restaurants that never lost power are not inspected.
In Nassau, said county health department spokesman Mary Ellen Laurain, environmental-response teams are evaluating all establishments that have lost power “to see if the food is fit for consumption.”
For restaurants that lost power, Sandy’s timing was actually pretty fortunate. “We knew the storm was coming,” said Lou Aloe, owner of Black & Blue in Huntington, “and we managed to sell most of what we had over the weekend.” At 2:30 a.m. on Monday, Aloe came back to his restaurant and iced down all the remaining meat and fish in his walk-in refrigerator. He or one of his employees showed up every four hours “to dump on more ice.” His power came back at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and within 30 minutes, a Suffolk County health inspector showed up. “She took the temperature of everything we had and if it was over 41 degrees, it went into the Dumpster.”
All in all, Aloe figures he lost less than $800 worth of food. “We try to buy on a daily basis,” he said, “and we don’t usually have that much on hand.”