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Ray's Candy Store Stays Open Despite Order From Health Department

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — Ray's Candy Store was shuttered by the city's Health Department Monday after failing an early-morning inspection.

The longtime Avenue A eatery, owned and operated by Ray Alvarez since 1974, got slapped with a host of infractions by the Department of Health, including extensive mice infestation, an official said.

Ray's was docked 53 total points for unsanitary conditions, meaning the store must correct the problems and pass a follow-up inspection, a Health Department spokeswoman said.

Ray's passed its previous inspection last November with a score of 15, receiving a "B" grade for lack of personal cleanliness among staff, according to Health Department records.

Local blog EV Grieve first noted the closure after a capturing an image of the inspector inside the establishment.

Despite Monday's order — including a bright yellow "CLOSED" sign posted to his front door — Alvarez kept the shop open for business and was working to correct the infractions.

"I don't know what to do," said the 78-year-old, acknowledging he risks a hefty fine for each day he stays open in violation of the order.

"I cannot afford it either way," Alvarez added, noting that the loss of business could threaten him with falling behind on his rent. "I cannot stay closed, I cannot stay open. I'm stuck in a bad situation."

He explained that the health inspector surprised him at the shop about 8 a.m., also docking the store for having holes on the floor and walls.

Alvarez immediately got on the phone with an exterminator and set up an appointment for Tuesday morning, and also received a helping hand from a friend to start cleaning and patching up the space.

"I knew [the inspector] was coming, but we didn't have enough time to do the work," he said. "I asked her to give me time to work and clean."

Alvarez, who works the overnight shift at the 24-hour establishment, said he's only gotten a few hours of sleep over the past three days because he had to help train a new daytime employee over the weekend.

He said he planned to close the shop to avoid any hassle from the city, but expected to still serve food from his takeout window.

"I'm taking chances," he admitted.

The store narrowly avoided eviction after Alvarez fell behind on his rent, but local fundraising efforts and a boost from social-networking sites have helped him persevere through tough economic times.