ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — While investigating several complaints of rats in a local restaurant, KXAN learned the health department in Williamson County is not doing as many health inspections as they would like.
That means problems can go unaddressed and put customer safety at risk.
A spokesperson says they currently have four inspectors, but need six. Their goal is to visit every restaurant at least three times a year, but right now they only have the manpower to do two visits.
That process is for restaurants that pass. Those who fail need extra attention, which means repeat visits to see if they have fixed the problems.
This includes restaurants in the “high risk” category like the 620 Cafe & Bakery on Round Rock Avenue. Health inspections obtained through a public information request reveal several failing scores over the last three years.
In 2014, they were forced to close their doors for 48 hours after two failing scores in one month due to a combination of food handling, hand washing and food temperature concerns.
The latest complaint was cited in a Sept. 2015 inspection report, when someone said they saw a rat in the dining room. Ember Sherman told KXAN she saw one as well when she and her husband were eating there on Jan. 15, 2016. “It was a little traumatic,” said Sherman. “My husband said he heard something like scratching coming down this post coming down from the ceiling.”
That’s when Sherman says she spotted the rat. “He came on down to our table and was there for a second, and hopped down into the booth seat next to my husband and then onto the floor and we both hopped up. I think I screamed.”
The owner of the cafe, Scotty Stroup, said he was unaware of the problem. “I haven’t seen any, and I eat there,” said Stroup.
In the September 2015 inspection report, signed by Stroup’s daughter, the inspector wrote, “Saw no rat, but lots of rat droppings” in the pantry areas.They found there was no food contamination.
Stroup says a creek that runs behind the cafe is home to lots of critters. “When you open the back door to take garbage one could get in the back door, or it could be as simple as someone who doesn’t like me bringing one in in their purse,” said Stroup.
Either way, he says traps, poison and a pest control company are trying to eradicate the unwanted guests.
Those who’ve seen the rodents question whether the doors should even be open until the problem is solved. “I just think it’s irresponsible to run a business, especially with food,” said Sherman.
Stroup told KXAN the health department returned to his cafe on Jan. 22, but we have not received the results of that inspection.
The health department urges customers who see anything questionable to file a complaint.