Regular customers of the Whaleback Restaurant will have to find a new place to drink and dine, at least for the next several days. The roadside bar on Sandwich Road in Sagamore was shut down by the Bourne Board of Health Wednesday night. The board made its decision based on a report from town health inspector Terri A. Guarino of its numerous health and safety violations.
Ms. Guarino’s report stated she had conducted five separate inspections of the restaurant, starting in December of last year and concluding with her most recent visit on Monday, May 12. The lengthy list of violations, some of which were noticed on her first visit and still had not been addressed by this week, included:
• “Fryer grease dark in color, baskets coated with dust and grease build-up due to improper and infrequent cleaning”
• “The interior of the ice machine needs to be regularly cleaned and sanitized, black mold build-up.”
• “Hood vents have not been cleaned since April 2013.”
• “No liquid hand soap in restrooms or kitchens; inadequate handwashing facilities; lack of necessary cleaning supplies.”
• “Men’s restroom cannot be used as storage for recyclables. Flooring lacks structural integrity…urinal is moldy and has objects encrusted inside.”
“The floor in the men’s room... I could peel a piece of the floor panel off with one finger and reach my hand down into the basement…it was that structurally poor,” she told the health board the night of Wednesday, May, 14, .
Whaleback owner Robert L. Lacey defended himself by listing the steps he had taken to correct the violations. Mr. Lacey said he had repaired the roof, cleaned and scrubbed some of the dirtier areas and was about to install new plywood walls in the kitchen. Ms. Guarino concurred that the roof had been repaired, but many other violations remained, including splattered grease on the plywood bought to replace the existing kitchen walls.
Board of health chairman Kathleen M. Peterson was appalled.
“We, as a board, are annoyed when a restaurant finally gets here because that means that you are not cooperating with the office,” Ms. Peterson said.
She noted that many of the violations listed in Ms. Guarino’s report could have been addressed by Mr. Lacey in a relatively short amount of time.
“C’mon, we’re talking about an hour’s worth of work and you didn’t do it—since December 26,” she said.
Also among the many violations noted by Ms. Guarino was an abundance of scattered papers on a pizza oven in the kitchen. Mr. Lacey admitted that he uses the oven as his personal work desk. Board member Kelly A. Mastria asked him if he did not consider scattered papers in a working kitchen to be a fire hazard. He explained the oven is not hooked up, so it cannot be turned on. That left Ms. Peterson aghast.
“I’m not seeing any comprehension of how bad this is,” Ms. Peterson said.
Ms. Peterson also mentioned that earlier this year Ms. Guarino had offered Mr. Lacey the option of a two-day “voluntary closure.” During that time, he could address the violations and avoid being called before the board of health. Mr. Lacey did not accept that option and instead chose to ignore the recommendations in Ms. Guarino’s report, resulting in his appearance in front of the board, she said.
Mr. Lacey told the board he felt he had accepted the voluntary closure option by closing his restaurant early some evenings, so he and his staff could clean. He said he felt that he had attended to as much as 50 percent of the violations noted in Ms. Guarino’s report
Ms. Guarino told the board that after several months of visits, little to none of the violations in her report had been addressed. She said that, on the contrary, when she was there on Monday, “if anything, it seemed worse because it’s half-finished projects.”
Ms. Peterson also questioned whether Mr. Lacey was ServSafe-certified. ServSafe is a food and beverage safety training program that the management staff of restaurants is required by the state to pass. Mr. Lacey said that he remembered taking the online ServSafe exam but could not remember when. He added that he did not have the capability to print the document, which is why Ms. Guarino did not see his certification posted at the restaurant.
Ms. Peterson said she was stunned to hear Mr. Lacey did not have a printer to print out his ServSafe certification. She advised him to contact the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension to confirm that he has been ServSafe-certified; otherwise he would be shut down indefinitely. She added that the possible lack of ServSafe certification was just one part of the problems confronting the Whaleback and its owner.
“We’re not looking to put anyone out of business, but you have to understand that the public health can be at risk…and it isn’t us that will close your business. You’ll lose your business if somebody gets sick,” she said.
The board closed the restaurant for seven days. They told Mr. Lacey that if he can remedy many of the violations to the satisfaction of Ms. Guarino, Bourne building inspector Roger M. Laporte and the Bourne Fire Department before then, he can reopen sooner. Ms. Peterson, Ms. Mastria and board member Donald C. Uitti, as well as health agent Cynthia A. Coffin, all planned to make site visits to the restaurant Thursday, May 15, and next Monday, May 19, to view firsthand the status of the cleanup.