By Della Hasselle and Julie Shapiro
DOWNTOWN — City inspectors slammed a slew of Downtown restaurants with poor grades during the city's most recent health inspection — including the historic Bridge Cafe.
The oldest surviving tavern in New York, located at 279 Water Street, was cited for 46 violations, including evidence of rats, flies, a lack of hand-washing facilities and unsanitary equipment, the health department found.
Of the 10 restaurants that have poor grades looming, Mike's Papaya at 88 Reade Street was the worst offender by far, with 106 violation points — or about a "C" grade under the city's letter grading system. The hot dog joint was cited for violations including contaminated food, cold food not properly refrigerated, evidence of mice and lack of soap in the bathroom.
In December, Mike's Papaya earned an "A" grade after inspectors cited only 10 violation points. Now, the restaurant could be shut down if it continues to have excessive violations.
Max's Tribeca on 181 Duane Street received 36 points. Violations included evidence of mice and food that wasn't properly refrigerated.
Other restaurants that received more than 28 violations include Kaijou Restaurant on 21 South End Avenue, Bar Stuzzicheria on 305 Church Street, Benvenuto Cafe on 189 Franklin Street, and Alfanoose Middle Eastern Cafe on 8 Maiden Lane.
Hotel Millenium Hilton on 55 Church Street, Wendy's on 117 Beekman and Brandy Library Lounge on 25 North Moore Street also received 28 violation points or more.
Many restaurant owners either declined to comment or were not immediately available for interview.
Other owners called the health inspection process unfair, and complained the number violations levied against them is unjustified.
Maram Shami of Alfanoose Middle Eastern Cafe, blamed unscrupulous companies who advantage of the point system to prey on restaurant owners by promising to teach them how to properly clean and avoid future violations.
Shami said she and her husband, co-owner Mouhamad Shami, 55, shelled out $5,000 for a special training on how to clean the restaurant before the most recent inspection, only to incur more violations than the one before.
"It's really wrong," Shami said about what she thinks is a predatory practice. "I'm shocked and concerned."
Shami said the poor grades are likely to drive her and her husband out of business, after customers stopped coming by after their most recent grade.
"We're working like dogs, all day long, and at the end of the day we're killing ourselves," Shami, 45, added. "How long can we stand it?"