CHARLESTON, W.Va. - During a March 27 inspection at the River's Edge Cafe in St. Albans, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department sanitarian Jeff Rockwell marked down two critical violations and 14 non-critical violations.
With those numbers, the restaurant would have earned a "fair compliance" rating under the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's proposed restaurant rating system.
Owner Chuck Hudson also would be required to post a health inspection form near the front door of the business featuring a big, orange bar across the bottom reading "FAIR COMPLIANCE."
He won't have to post that sign anytime soon, however. The health department still is collecting public comments on the new rating system. Members of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Board also plan to put the system on a trial period this summer before rolling it out countywide.
But Hudson said he's worried the new three-tiered, color-coded ratings will eventually drive customers away.
"It definitely affects business, there's no question about it," he said.
Rockwell actually found eight critical violations at the River's Edge Cafe. Only two counted against the restaurant's rating because employees corrected the other six offenses while the sanitarian was still on site. All the violations still will appear on the health inspection form, however.
Hudson said he's glad Rockwell pointed out all the violations, which included a "dirty" deli slicer, potato slicer and can opener.
"I'm glad it was brought to my attention. I'm not complaining about it because it was fixed. We want to play by the rules," he said.
But Hudson said the rating could make customers turn the other direction when they see it, even though the River's Edge Cafe has received zero violations on its previous inspection.
"Consistency is the only thing I ask. And they're not just consistent," he said.
Susan Johnson, co-owner of the Sister Act Cafe on Capitol Street, also is worried about the new rating system driving away business.
The Sister Act Cafe's most recent inspection would have earned a "good compliance" rating under the new system.
A health department sanitarian found three critical violations and nine non-critical violations during a March 9 visit to the restaurant.
Two of those critical violations were corrected on the spot - undated chicken salad and medicine stored in the refrigerator were thrown away - so only one of the critical violations would count against the cafe's rating.
Johnson said she thinks the ratings should only be based on food preparation-related offenses.
The cafe's one uncorrected critical violation came from a leaking sink.
"It runs people off for the wrong reasons," Johnson said.
"All of the things we were written up on didn't have anything to do with food prep, just little silly stuff that had nothing to do with our food preparation issues at all," she said.