The popular south-side doughnut bakery Le Cave’s has failed its fourth consecutive inspection, and as a result the Health Department intends to refer the matter to the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
The county attorney would then send a demand letter, which warns permit holders that if corrective action is not taken within 10 days, the office will file a civil lawsuit. Operating without a permit is also a Class 3 misdemeanor.
The failed inspections were not routine inspections, but change-of-owner inspections triggered after the bakery lost its permit late last year after missing payment deadlines. Since a new health code was adopted in April 2016, restaurants that lose their permits are required to requalify for them, according to inspection chief David Ludwig.
During the first requalifying inspection in mid-December, the county found 11 deficiencies, including problems with several sinks, damage to the building’s walls and windows, cracked and potholed floors, and a refrigerator that did not keep food adequately cooled.
Many of those issues had been resolved by the fourth reinspection on Feb. 14, but problems with the floor and refrigerator remained. The bakery is also without a certified food protection manager, according to a copy of the inspection report.
Photos provided by the Pima County Health Department show that the bakery’s floor is cracked, stained and dirty in many places.
“This is not a health issue really; this again goes again to a structural type issue,” said Rudy Molina Jr., the bakery’s owner. “Is it cracked, and does it have some pit holes in certain areas and things like that? Absolutely. But in my opinion, is it a health hazard? Absolutely not.”
Molina has been in talks with contractors to get the floors repaired. He said the floors are cleaned, degreased and washed on a daily basis.
As far as the refrigerator is concerned, Molina said it was off by just a degree or less, describing it as a “minor issue” that is being worked on.
He noted that violations have nothing to do with cleaning areas, utensils, or anything of that nature.
If the problems are resolved before the first court date — if a lawsuit is eventually filed — Ludwig said his office would ask that the matter be dropped.
In the wake of 2016 inspections that uncovered what the county called “gross unsanitary conditions,” Molina said he spent around $25,000 to get the nearly 75-year-old building into compliance. He previously said that declining sales since then have made it difficult to carry out the repairs the county is asking for.
Since last April, Ludwig’s department has referred five other restaurants to the County Attorney’s Office, four of which were part of the same national chain operated by the same franchisee.
“If we file a lawsuit, we will seek an injunction, civil penalties, and a judgment against you for all costs incurred in the action,” both of the demand letters sent by the county attorney in those cases conclude. “Your cooperation will avoid the time and expense of judicial proceedings. We look forward to your prompt compliance.”