WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – A WUSA9 Investigation finds the District's Department of Health hasn't asked to pull licenses at restaurants with repeat hazard closures despite a spokeswoman's claim that the agency's policy is to file such revocation requests.
Below see what DOH e-mailed in response to a Novemeber WUSA9 investigation on repeat offenders.
"When there are repeat offenders, yes they are recommended to DCRA (Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs) not to renew their license," responded DOH spokeswoman Najma Roberts.
The Health Department has denied interview requests and refused to clarify its policy or Roberts' statement.
WUSA9 has identified 30 DC restaurants closed twice or more with "imminent health hazard" citations, but open records requests at DOH and DCRA show no evidence the agency had ever filed a revocation request.
All the restaurants were allowed to reopen after passing a re-inspection, which costs $100 to schedule.
DOH does not fine restaurants for first time or repeat offenses.
DCRA also refused an interview but said by email: "To date, DOH (Department of Health) has not recommended to DCRA that it not renew a food establishment license."
The WUSA9 Investigative Team tracked the agency's director, Dr. Joxel Garcia to a downtown hotel where he was speaking at a convention.
"We have been very busy," Garcia said about the agency denying an interview with him or another representative. "Let me look back at the numbers of the multiple offenders and we can have this conversation after that."
Health Department records indicate several restaurants have failed three or more inspections including Heritage India on P St., a different Heritage India on Pennsylvania Ave., Heritage India's sister restaurant Malgudi on P. St. (which previously operated under the name Café Luna), New Big Wong in Chinatown, Sawah in Adam's Morgan, and Kitchen No. 1 on S. Capitol.
When we told Garcia there is no evidence the agency has ever requested a license revocation, he said he is reviewing repeat violators, but is concerned about the impact a closure could have on small business.
"What we're doing so you know, is we're working with them to improve their practices," Garcia said. "They are part of the family of economic development here in the District."
Inspectors cited rodents at all of the three and four time closure locations, and documented more rodent citations at many of the two time closures like Providence Hospital's Lori's Gift Shop, Dean and Deluca in Georgetown, Popeye's on 8th St. SE, and Cosi at Metro Center inspectors.
They're all back in business.
Garcia said he would get back to WUSA9 in a week or so with answers. That was three weeks ago, and neither the agency, nor Garcia, has provided a response.