Caffé Florian was closed for five days in early September after officials from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) found dozens of fruit flies in the kitchen and main dining area of the restaurant, a popular Hyde Park haunt for U of C students.
After a customer complained about the flies, the CDPH visited the Florian, located at 1450 East 57th Street, on August 28 and instructed the management to fix the problem. The violation was marked as “serious,” and the Florian had to shell out $250 as a penalty for breaking the health code.
Tom Frangias, one of the managers of the restaurant, said that the city was to blame for the fruit flies; the restaurant was not. The city had been doing construction work near the restaurant, and a pipe broke, releasing the flies, Frangias claimed.
“We looked like the bad guys because the flies were in our restaurant,” Frangias said. “People don’t care where they come from.”
When inspectors returned on September 6 to find that the fruit flies had not been exterminated, the CDPH forced the restaurant to close until it was ready for reinspection on September 11. The Florian passed this third check and opened the next day.
“In our way of doing business, ongoing noncompliance ratchets up the seriousness of the offense because that shows us that there’s a pattern of disregard for food safety regulations. And that’s unacceptable,” said Tim Hadac, spokesman for the CDPH.
The repeat violation was marked as “critical,” and the restaurant management will have to pay $500. Food establishments generally have the opportunity to contest the penalty fee at the City Department for Administrative Hearings, but Frangias said they will not argue the charge at their October 18 hearing.
The restaurant’s employees worked between September 6 and 11 to patch tiles and paint around the restaurant, Frangias said. The Florian also hired a new pest company to exterminate the flies.
“Knock on wood, we’re ok,” Frangias said. “We’re back to normal.”
Hadac said that the real punishment for restaurants that violate the city’s health code comes from bad publicity, not the relatively small fees.
“No restaurant wants to be known as a place that gets an infestation of insects,” Hadac said. “It’s not our goal to rub anyone’s nose in their own failure, but we do what we have to do to protect the public health.”