The Athens City-County Board of Health held a hearing on Monday afternoon, voting to suspend Athens restaurant OMG! Rotisserie for 30-days, following several inspections from the Athens City-County Health Department (ACCHD).

According to ACCHD Environmental Health Director Patrick McGarry, the hearing was part of a standard protocol for the Health Department. McGarry stated to the Board that ACCHD’s procedure is that if there is the same violation after three consecutive inspections it must be brought to an administrative hearing. The first hearing for OMG! Rotisserie was held on Feb. 28, 2020, following several inspections.

“In that hearing, we went over the violations, the significance of the violations and how that impacted the health and safety of the general public,” McGarry said.

According to McGarry, during the first hearing, they discussed the various violations and well sanitary issues.

On April 29, 2021, ACCHD responded to a complaint at OMG! Rotisserie. McGarry said that several violations were noted including a “roach infestation.” The restaurant was closed at that time and has not reopened.

McGarry outlined two options to the Board; the first being a 30-day suspension, during which time the owners would address violations and undergo a 15-day inspection, or the second option to revoke the restaurant’s operating license.

The Health Department recommended the 30-day suspension with the understanding that if the violations are not corrected within that time it would be recommended that the restaurant’s license would be revoked.

OMG! Rotisserie owner Marla Rutter spoke to the board about the multiple violations.

“I don’t disagree with anything Patrick said,” Rutter said. Rutter described to the Board personal family issues that they had been facing, causing the restaurant to suffer. “So that’s why this restaurant has went to hell.”

Rutter stated that she has applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Grant, a federal grant program that aims to help struggling restaurants that have been affected by the pandemic. If awarded, Rutter would receive $289,000 to be spent over three years. She stated that she would use this money on improvements, staff, training and cleaning, as well as normal day-to-day business operations.

Board member Betty Jo Parsley outlined the multiple violations the restaurant has committed.

According to online records, the restaurant’s first Critical Control Point Inspection was in January 2017, when it was observed that food and food use items were being stored directly on the floor in the storage building. Since then, the inspections have found incorrect temperatures for food storage and at the hot and cold tables, sanitary violations, and lack of in-charge staff members present. The latest violation in April included unclean equipment and the presence of cockroaches.

“I don’t understand how you can operate a business and know that you are putting people in jeopardy who are purchasing food from you,” Parsley said. “At the same time, our Health Department is trying to make you seems disrespectful. It seems disrespectful to your customers and disrespectful to our Health Board.”

Rutter stated that the restaurant had closed several times to conduct deep cleanings of the facility, but within “a month or so” things would return to a similar state. Rutter stated that she felt that unless she was there at the restaurant it was not being cleaned by employees.

Members of the Board appeared sympathetic towards Rutter, stating that they hope she gets the grant and can hire the help that is needed.

“You have to eat, breathe and sleep it (the restaurant business),” Michael Wootton, Board President said. “We feel bad for your situation, but our function as the Health Board is to protect the public.”

A motion to suspend Rutter’s license for 30 days was brought forth and passed unanimously, giving Rutter the allotted time to fix the violations at OMG! Rotisserie.

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