CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The storied Red Carpet Lounge on Charleston's East End is home to many things: stiff drinks, a rotating cast of regular customers and, for now at least, a cat named Cali.
She's a mascot of sorts, a friendly calico who spends her nights lounging in and around the East End's favorite watering hole.
But when a sanitarian came by the Red Carpet for an inspection last week and was greeted by Cali at the door, he was less than charmed.
He cited the lounge for a violation under the health code, which mandates that animals not be on the premises of a food establishment. The Red Carpet serves lunch during the day.
That's a "critical violation," and one that demanded correction immediately.
Employees tossed the cat out the door and got on with the inspection.
Now they have to figure out how to keep Cali from treading into health code-violation territory without kicking her out of her home. They hope they can do that by keeping her away from the bar and restaurant area proper.
"They said she had to be off the premises," bar owner Mike Duda said. "I'm interpreting that to mean she can stay on the patio."
Nasandra Wright, a sanitarian supervisor with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said that under the guidelines, that's probably OK.
"The cat shouldn't be anywhere where it can come in contact with clean equipment, utensils," she said.
Wright identified herself as a cat lover, saying she owns several, before listing the health risks associated with having animals around food preparation - namely the disease-causing organisms and pathogens they carry.
"So it shouldn't be where you're going to prepare food," she said, "even though it's a beloved cat."