President Obama’s takeout choice cited for state restaurant violations
The restaurant where President Barack Obama ordered takeout pastrami sandwiches last week was cited Tuesday by a state inspector for critical violations of sanitation and safety laws.
Jerry’s Famous Deli, at 1450 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, served the President and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami on Aug. 18. Obama was in town that morning to aid Meek’s campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.
On Aug. 24, a state inspector from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation found 26 critical violations.
Jerry’s Famous Deli co-owner Jason Starkman said of the violations, “It’s the state’s job to find them. It’s our responsibility to clean it up and fix it. And that’s what we do. If they question something, I will throw it away. I don’t risk anything or take chances.”
The inspector halted the sale of cooked meat balls, found potentially hazardous raw and cooked foods kept at improper temperatures and noted bare-hand contact of bread by employees and improper hand washing, among other violations.
It’s not the first time Jerry’s Famous Deli has been cited by authorities.
Last May, an inspector found “potatoes contaminated by dirty water from a broken cooler;” and “precooked beef and chickens left outside from night before out of temperature and bad oder (sic);” among 19 critical violations at the restaurant. After that visit, a manager said the meat was discarded.
The state’s website describes critical violations as those that, if not corrected, are more likely to contribute directly to food contamination, illness or environmental damage. Last year, officials found an average of 4.62 critical violations per inspection at Florida restaurants, and completed 107,751 inspections.
The term “critical” has varying degrees of severity, the website says, and potential risk to the public requires its inspectors to assess each situation to determine appropriate action.
While inspectors can order a restaurant closed, the violations at Jerry’s Famous Deli were not serious enough for that to happen. A follow-up inspection is ordered within 90-days.
Even though his restaurant was cited, Starkman says he wishes inspectors would come by every month.
“The more they come, the better for us, because it keeps our staff on their toes,” Starkman said.
Jerry’s Famous Deli is part of a national chain with 10 locations, mostly in California. It is known for its “sky high” sandwiches, bountiful menu and 24-hour service.
Since the President stopped in, the restaurant’s business is booming and customers come in asking for “the Obama special,” a manager said.
And they may have good reason. A White House official said last week that “the President enjoyed the visit and the sandwich.”
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