Metropolitan Cafe’s gates were pulled down midday Tuesday after finding evidence of health code violations.
Just after 2 p.m., as the common hour rush was winding down, employees and patrons were forced to leave the popular BC cafe when a New York City Health Department Health code inspector posted their bright yellow signs. According to an employee who asked to go unnamed, the cafe was cited for signs of mice.
“I came down from class hoping to get food and it was all shut down,” said Asheer Tanveer, a computer science major. “Even if we don’t know what the exact violation was, any kind of violation is a serious thing.”
The New York City Health Department inspects restaurants and food establishments across the city. Inspectors are monitoring for violations of their standards for food handling, food temperature, hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance and vermin control.
The cafe holds an A rating, but the establishment has still violated some of the Department’s codes. According to The New York City Department Health and Mental Hygiene records, during the Metropolitan Cafe’s Sept. 11 inspection, they had eight points deducted. The points were deducted for “critical” violations which included “evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas” and “ live roaches present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.” The establishment still received their “A” grade because of the Health Department’s grading system.
The eight-point deduction doesn’t hinder their grade because of the leeway the grading system gives. The New York Department of Health grading system works on a scale. So restaurants can still open with violations.
During inspection, violations are labeled as either a public health hazard, a critical violation or a general violation. After being labeled, they are assigned points depending on severity. Each violation can receive points on a scale of one to five. Then depending on the amount of points assigned, restaurants are given a letter grade. Restaurants with anywhere between 0 and 13 points deducted will receive an A. Restaurants with 14 to 27 deducted will receive a B. An establishment with 28 or more points deducted will receive a C.
According to a BC Spokesperson this incident will be cleared up.
“Metropolitan has taken immediate steps to remediate the issue, and is working with our facilities department to make sure the cafeteria can be fully operational as soon as possible., said the Spokesperson. “While we regret this inconvenience, the health of the college community is our priority and we will make sure all New York City Department of Health regulations are followed.”
According to the Health Department, they may order a restaurant to temporarily close to correct a public health hazard that cannot be corrected before the end of an inspection or if it scores 28 or more points on three consecutive inspections. In the department’s Guide for Food services they state, “To reopen, the establishment must submit a written statement to the Health Department indicating that it has corrected all the violations that led to its being closed…If it appears that sanitary conditions have improved, an inspector will conduct a reopening inspection while the establishment remains closed to the public…After re-opening, the establishment will be inspected for compliance with the Health Code. If it is in sufficient compliance, it may remain open and will be inspected again in about three months.”
Jevaughn Greenaway, a Music major, was not shocked by the accusations against the cafe’s hygiene. “I am not surprised that this has happened,” said Greenway. “I remember last semester I went and bought a tuna sandwich. After eating one half I saw a strand of hair sticking out of the other side. When I pulled the strand of hair out, it was extremely long and I immediately lost my appetite. I was not surprised because the cafeteria does not seem to be the cleanest place in terms of food preparation.”
The cafe has been earning a reputation amongst students for not being the cleanest and it’s beginning to take a toll on their perceived credibility.
“I thought, maybe that’s what got me sick a couple days ago,” said Cynthia Nunez, a communications major. “It’s really dirty in there, I mean, it looks dirty.”
Despite student opinions, the cafeteria’s sole food service has remained the Metropolitan Cafe, even through contract renewals. Policy is that companies bid for the contract to operate in Boylan Cafeteria.
“People weren’t terribly happy with this food service,” said Nancy Romer, founder of Brooklyn Food Coalition and former Brooklyn College professor. “But when they sent out the bid [for a different food service] nobody picked it up, or applied for the job. There was an RFP (Request for Proposal) sent out, and I don’t know if anyone sent out a proposal, besides Metropolitan Food Café.”
The temporary shutdown of the cafe has affected students’ views of not only the cafe’s service but as a reflection of the campus itself.
“It makes me worry about my fellow students,”said Bobby Ashley, a film production major. “We saw them spraying stuff all over the place. If we as students are going to pay all that money, it should at least keep it clean.”
Immediately after closing, the staff cleaned for about four and a half hours, spraying, scrubbing, sweeping and throwing every last bit of food in the trash. But the stain of health code violations may take just a bit more time to fade.
“Brooklyn College is responsible for ensuring its students are in a clean and safe environment. This issue needs to be resolved quickly,” said Ashley Brown, a philosophy and creative writing major. “This is completely appalling… One afternoon is not enough to clean and remove all of the creatures that may have been there.”