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What does it take for health inspectors to shut down Richmond restaurants?

Are restaurants allowed to stay open even if they have pest infestations?
A stock image of a cockroach on a stove.

An average of two Richmond businesses were shut down every month for health and safety reasons, within the first nine months this year.

According to Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) food establishment closures list, 18 closure orders have been issued so far in 2023 with seven from August and September.

Pest infestation and unsanitary conditions were most commonly cited as the main reasons for the closure, followed by other reasons including the lack of hot water, improper dishwashing and glasswashing and improper construction.

Closure orders are issued by VCH’s environmental health officers, who conduct routine inspections to ensure restaurants comply with the Public Health Act.

In a statement to the Richmond News, a VCH spokesperson confirmed that officers follow “progressive compliance guidelines” for addressing critical and non-critical infractions starting from education and guidance, and can escalate to “warnings, correction orders and closure orders.”

Critical infractions are defined by VCH as infractions “more likely to contribute to illness and/or injury” or those that may have “an immediate impact” on safety and sanitation unless corrected.

Officers may issue written and verbal warnings to food establishments with critical and non-critical infractions and conduct follow-up inspections, or they may take one step further and issue a closure order.

Closure orders are “taken seriously” by environmental health officers because of their impact on the food establishment, according to VCH.

As such, the orders are only issued when “there are immediate health hazards that cannot be addressed during an inspection or readily brought into compliance, such as lack of hot water, unsanitary conditions, or pest infestations that directly compromise safe food preparation.”

Food establishments that receive closure orders must take corrective actions and successfully pass follow-up inspections before they are allowed to reopen.

Closures typically last for under a week but can take as long as months.

Last year, the Burger King at Sea Island Way was closed for six months after a customer found mould in her sandwiches.

The restaurant, which had a history of failing health and safety inspections, was ordered to close for having unsanitary conditions.

More recently, Buns Master Bakery on No. 6 Road near Westminster Highway has been closed since March due to improper construction, unsanitary conditions and pest infestation.

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