Friday, March 13, 2009

Filthy Heartland Cafe Closed for Health Code Violations

After a patron got food poisoning, a popular gathering spot of socialists and "progressive liberals" shut down for health code violations.

I've been telling you for a long time that the Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park is dirty, filthy and vermin infested. Now, the City of Chicago officially agrees. This morning, a big green "License Suspended" sticker was slapped on the Heartland's door, announcing to the world that the restaurant is not a safe place to eat.

The web-extra report this afternoon from Lorraine Swanson (emphasis added) gives details, but note that there is much more to this story than what Swanson reports:

City public health inspectors this morning ordered the Heartland Café at 7000 N. Glenwood closed after finding three critical health code violations inside the Rogers Park restaurant. What is a "critical violation?" The City of Chicago Food Protection Division defines it this way: This category includes such occurrences as: Inadequate storage temperatures Inappropriate food handling practices Improper personal hygiene Rodent and/or insect infestation Lack of hot running water These types of violations create an immediate health hazard that carries a greater risk of causing food-borne illness (disease carried to humans through food). Critical violations identified during an inspection must be corrected immediately. If the business fails to do so, it fails the inspection, receives a citation, and has its business license suspended. The business owner is required to correct the violation(s) and contact the Chicago Department of Public Health to schedule an inspection to reopen the business.Source

We told you so...
Tim Hadac, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said that the inspection was prompted by a 311 call by a customer who said she became ill after eating at the restaurant on Thursday. Inspectors who visited the Heartland reported finding mouse feces throughout the restaurant, food stored at improper temperatures, and cross contamination from mold found in an ice machine.

All three counts are considered "critical violations," according to city's public health code, which warrant immediate closure. Each violation carries a fine of $500. Food found to be stored at improper temperatures was ordered to be immediately discarded. Hadac said that the customer reported becoming ill after eating a dish that included tofu, sautéed vegetables and a spicy sauce.

The Heartland Café is owned by Michael James and Katy Hogan. The closing also affects a store operated on site the restaurant, and the adjacent Red Line Tap, where customers can order food that is prepared at Heartland and is passed through an opening into the bar. The Red Line, at 7006 N. Glenwood, is also owned by James and Hogan. "The establishment will remain closed until they can pass re-inspection. The burden is entirely up to them to address the violations until they can open again," Hadac said referring to the owners.

Swanson conducted a full-fledged investigation by calling city officials for accurate information and quoting them directly. She tells me that she will have more on the story in next week's News-Star. Heartland Cafe will probably remain closed through the weekend, since there seems little chance that another inspection will be performed today. It seems most likely that it, and possibly the Red Line Tap next door, will remain closed through this St. Patrick's Day weekend. Food served in the Red Line comes from the Heartland Cafe's filthy kitchen.

As reported here previously, Michael James also owns a garage in a nearby alley that he has rented out to push cart food vendors. Those vendors sell uninspected, unregulate food from their carts. Food items were stored in the garage without refrigeration. The doors to the garage have gaping holes more than large enough for any rodent to enter through. Hogan and James are politically active in local socialist groups and are both former members of the radical SDS. They are also close political allies of 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, who has used the Heartland Cafe for political functions on numerous occasions, including one that flagrantly violated the city's fire codes