Restaurant fined for 44 breaches of hygiene and safety regulations

The Firebox Grill
The Firebox Grill

An Inishowen restaurant has been fined 1750 euro and ordered to pay costs after breaching 44 food hygiene and safety regulations.

Buncrana District Court heard the “horrifying” breaches at the Railway Tavern in Fahan were detected during an inspection by Environmental Health Officer, Ms. Keane on November 23rd, 2013.

The HSE took the case against Sean McDonagh, Station Road, Fahan and he pleaded guilty to 13 charges.

Ms. Keane told the court that on the date of detection, the restaurant was very busy, with 140 bookings that evening.

She said the building was old and had previously been a railway station.

Ms. Keane told the court that HACCP, which deals with the control of food hazards was not in place, adding there was “no culture” of food safety at the restaurant and no-one in control of it.

She outlined how renovations were being undertaken on the premises and it was not pest proofed. She said there was a “very, very poor state of cleanliness,” dishes had been left out from the night before and mould was growing in a dessert area.

She described the condition of the restaurant as “unacceptable.”

The court heard the fridge was overstocked and foods were stacked on top of each other, which could lead to cross-contamination. The temperature in the fridge was 12.5 degrees - it should be below 5 degrees.

In the cold room, food was stored on top of each other and it was in a very poor state of repair and cleanliness.” Food was also stored on the floor which was in “less than a hygienic state.”

The court heard the chef in charge had not been trained in food hygiene and there was a lack of any records.

Additionally, an extractor fan had not been cleaned and the “whole premises hadn’t been cleaned in quite a while.”

There was also a build up of grease and dirt on a ledge. The court was told the staff toilet was located in an area once used as a niteclub and had no ceiling. There was also no hot water for staff to wash their hands and there was a build-up of equipment in the area leading to a toilet, which could “provide shelter for pests to harbour.”

The surface of a chest freezer was also used to prepare food and the court heard paint was flaking from it. The microwave “demonstrated the lack of cleaning” and chopping boards, which had been washed, were left on a table used to collect dirty dishes.

Ms. Keane confirmed that a follow-up inspection most recently occurred in January last and there were now just 14 “minor” breaches, which are “easily rectified.”

Defence solicitor Frank Dorrian outlined how the building was 150 years old and had previously been the Lough Swilly railway station,

He said it had been a successful niteclub over three floors, and had been popular, particularly with people from Derry. He said the closure of the border for a period following an explosion and a change in licensing in Northern Ireland adversely affected the business and the owners began to run part of it as a restaurant.

He added that renovations were planned to the building but had been postponed and the premises had been preparing for these.

Ms Keane said the premises was inspected in 2007 and an improvement notice had been served. She said that every inspection identified “significant non-compliance” and required follow-up.

Mr Dorrian said the renovations were underway during the inspection and the kitchen had been in a poor state of repair.

He said there has been “significant improvement” since and a new chef has been employed who is “conscientious” and very willing to comply with food safety regulations. He said the management and staff are “committed to doing a good job.” Mr Dorrian said the restaurant is now a “thriving business.”

He said that repairs have been completed and were the first in “many phases of the regeneration of the building.”

Judge Paul Kelly asked if there was a mandatory closure in relation to the charges but solicitor Ms. Finnegan, representing the HSE, said these were separate matters for the HSE to decide and “certainly not the case at the moment.”

Judge Kelly had been provided with photographs of the breaches and described them as “quite horrifying in a number of respects.”

He said many of the breaches were due to the age and condition of the building. He said he was “very relieved” to know the issue of food safety had improved within the restaurant and noted how recent breaches were only of a minor nature.

Judge Kelly said he would pick the most serious breaches from the 13 charges.

He fined McDonagh a total of 1750 euro for five of the charges, in relation to the HACCP system, the monitoring of temperatures, for a number of breaches of hygiene and cleanliness, the staff toilet facilities and the storing of food in the fridge. He also ordered him to pay 552 in prosecution costs and took the remaining charges into consideration.