Ferndale Denny's reopens after shutting for cleaning when YouTube videos surface

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 5, 2013 

FERNDALE - The Denny's restaurant on Barrett Road has reopened after closing its doors to clean as videos showing a dirty kitchen made the rounds on YouTube.

An inspector from Whatcom County Health Department went to the restaurant after receiving complaints beginning Tuesday, July 2, from people who had seen the videos.

The restaurant already had closed voluntarily and was undergoing "deep cleaning," said Tom Kunesh, supervisor for the department's Food and Living Environment Program.

"Some of the visible cleaning issues that were shown in these videos are floors, under equipment, places where food for customers would never come into contact," Kunesh said. "The kinds of things depicted in the videos, while they're definitely gross and definitely code violations, would not be considered high risk for causing illness outbreak."

The 24-hour Denny's reopened shortly after the inspection.

"At Denny's, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality experience for our guests, and that includes both the food we serve and the condition of our restaurants," Denny's said Friday in a statement. "We take any report that suggests otherwise very seriously and any kitchen in violation of local heath standards is unacceptable, evaluated and corrected immediately."

A video titled "Ferndale Dennys Tour" showed conditions that included unclean areas beneath trays holding cooked food; eggshells and other discarded food on the floor beneath equipment; and dirty drains underneath equipment.

"Lack of cleaning doesn't usually get that bad," Kunesh said, noting that the problems shown in that video are more severe than inspectors usually find in restaurants. "Clogged floor drains, improperly drained equipment, and broken condensate drains are all code violations."

This isn't the first time the restaurant has had such problems, according to the health department.

"Our previous inspections note repeated cleaning problems at this site that are pretty severe," Kunesh said.

On July 24, 2012, after a health inspector again found "improper cleaning," the department issued a compliance agreement, which is used to correct repeated problems. There hadn't been an inspection between the date of that agreement and when the public contacted the department after seeing the videos.

And while public health officials were concerned about what they saw on the videos, Kunesh said the violations weren't serious enough to close the restaurant.

The inspector did tell the restaurant to correct violations that included improper drainage of the ice machine and condensate drains in the refrigerator, saying it could reopen after fixing its problems but didn't have to wait until another inspection to do so.

Kunesh said the department will inspect the restaurant next week and follow up on the problems.

The time when the Denny's restaurant reopened was clarified July 8.


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Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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