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State: Exception For Wedding Dinner Was Wrong

Like a dog with a tasty bone, The Portland Press Herald is continuing to chew on the story of the health violations that shut down three waterfront businesses last week, including the Porthole restaurant and an adjacent banquet hall. The state has now joined in, criticizing the city's director of Health and Human Services, Douglas Gardner, for allowing business owner Oliver Keithly to cook a lobster dinner for a wedding reception in the restaurant kitchen the day after it was closed by Michele Sturgeon, the Portland health inspector. Lisa Roy, the director of Maine's health inspector program told reporter Randy Billings:

If the inspector on site felt that (the kitchen) was not safe to prepare and serve food, and it was closed, then nothing should be happening in that operation with regard to cooking,

In the year since she was hired, Sturgeon "has inspected 49 restaurants and failed 39 of them," Billings reports in a related story. The inspection documents obtained by The PPH through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the city hasn't been able to keep up with state requirements that its estimated 800 food establishments be inspected every two years.

Sturgeon said she isn't surprised by the high failure rate, mostly because of a general lack of understanding about the state food code. It's not unique to Portland," she said. It's the whole state, as far as education goes.
In addition to the Porthole, Sturgeon has ordered two other restaurants closed for violations in the last year: Buffalo Wings-N-Things, which is now shuttered, and Passage to India, which was closed in November but allowed to reopen with conditions. It subsequently failed two follow-up inspections; a third, scheduled for June, was never done and the restaurant remains open. "Mohamed Hosain, owner of Passage to India, said Thursday that the restaurant ... has corrected the issues identified by the inspection reports."

· State Criticizes Portland's Handling of Rat-Infested Restaurant [PPH]
· Portland Inspects 49 Restaurants, 39 Fail [PPH]
· All Coverage of Porthole Restaurant [~EMAINE~]

[Photo: Kaper Design blog]