ANDERSONVILLE — The owner of beloved Andersonville restaurant Hamburger Mary's said he's working to get the place cleaned up and reopened after the city shut it down for health code violations Tuesday.
The popular burger joint at 5400 N. Clark St. is closed while the staff gets the restaurant up to code after city inspectors found mice droppings on three levels of the building, improper food temperatures and other sanitation issues.
Reached by phone, co-owner Ashley Wright blamed the busy St. Patrick's Day weekend, saying they had a "big crowd" which was "part of the reason that [the restaurant] was a little dirtier than usual."
"We actually got most of the things resolved before they came back to reinspect," he said, adding that after the initial inspection Monday, his crew "immediately" got to work cleaning.
On Tuesday, a team of three people from the city's Department of Public Health came back, and "they turned over the place," Wright said.
"We have a very overzealous health department," he said.
The owner tells Mina Bloom the closure was unnecessary:
An inspector found that refrigerators in the kitchen were not being maintained at the proper temperature, which is considered a critical violation, according to the city's report. Food items like chili, sour cream, whipped butter and blue cheese dressing were being kept at temperatures as high as 10 degrees over the required temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wright said he and his staff "voluntarily" threw everything out because the food was not being kept at the right temperature.
In the basement, which Wright said is used for storage, mice droppings were found behind the refrigerator and freezer unit, under the food storage racks and at the grease trap, according to the city's report.
Droppings also were found on the first floor, next to the rack under the soda fountain near the main bar and on top of the bricks near the second bar, the report said.
On the second floor, which is used for Mary's Attic shows, there were droppings in the dressing room, near the DJ area and behind the TV, a city inspector found.
Wright said the restaurant "did have a mouse problem over the winter" because "it's an old building."
He added: "We eradicated that problem. We've had pest control out weekly. They still found some mice droppings, mostly in the basement," which he emphasized is used for storage.
Other violations in the city' report included food not being protected from contamination, frost buildup, paint peeling on the walls, heavy grease accumulation on cooking equipment and a leaky faucet.
"The place wasn't as clean as it should have been," Wright said. "I'll own up to that."
Wright said they're hopingto reopen Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.
He said the violations did not warrant a shutdown and called the inspector's decision to do so "kind of ridiculous."
Still, Wright said he and his staff are going to comply and work hard to reopen.
"Nobody is going to be 100 percent clean all of the time," he said. "It was kind of overreaching to suspend our license."
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