Some people believe the government should be very involved in our lives. Others believe the government is already too involved in our lives. Whatever side of this ideological fence you sit on, I sincerely doubt you have a problem with the government’s role in protecting the health and confidence of the American public through the proliferation of health inspectors who ensure our dining and drinking establishments maintain acceptable levels of cleanliness.
So, when I watch “Bar Rescue” on Spike TV, I can’t help but wonder this: Where are all the fucking health inspectors?
If you’ve never seen “Bar Rescue,” the show unfolds thusly. Jon Taffer and his staff of experts perform recon on a bar that’s been losing money. After gathering data, they enter the bar, pretty much always find it unspeakably filthy (One recent episode featuring some shithole called Headhunters in Austin actually had insects inside its liquor bottles. It was beyond detestable.), make the staff clean it, revamp the concept, menu, and sometimes even the name based on neighborhood demographics and a unique niche, train the staff, and re-launch. It’s a fun jaunt.
I can even sympathize with some of the owners for not understanding how the branding process or niche marketing work. Bar ownership is a lot like public relations (my vocation) in that every John Q. Shithead thinks they know how to do it. Oh, I go to bars all the time. I love to drink. I should open my own bar. How hard could it be? DERP.
Paying a consultant to assist you with these things would behoove any bar owner, and, ideally, should be an undertaking you complete before you launch. What doesn’t make any sense to me is why, in every case, Jon Taffer has to come into these places and upbraid these idiots for failing to clean properly or store food in a manner consistent with state regulations.
It’s first troubling that people are not doing this for its own sake. You serve food and beverages to the public which is itself an implication of trust. You’re breaking that trust, and that’s horrible.
What’s more troubling is the seeming systemic breakdown we have at play here. It’s here I refer back to my lead question: Where are all the fucking health inspectors?
It wasn’t until my 20th or so episode of this show that I even had this thought. And thanks to a serendipitous link on a friend’s Facebook status update, I ended up finding the health inspector page for Denver government.
So I checked the filings for one of our favorite bars in Denver – The Atomic Cowboy. According to the Denver Department of Environmental Health, they were last inspected on February 11 and had no critical violations and no non-critical violations. They were inspected three times in 2012 with whatever issues they had never duplicated on subsequent visits. I feel confident in my choice to dine here.
So how do the places on Bar Rescue have such unspeakable squalor almost universally? I’m hopeful this is a problem only in other states, but we’ll find out because this week’s episode features what was known as Zanzibar Billiards in Denver, a place I had never visited. According to their evaluation from August of 2012:
“At the time of inspection the cook was observed slicing tomatoes for cold sandwiches using his bare hands. Per cook, the tomatoes will not be cooked. Explained to cook that bare hands shall not contact any ready to eat food, e.g. any food that will not be cooked before being served. Cook then put on gloves to finish slicing tomatoes. Issue explained and corrected.”
Considering this is the only issue pointed out by someone responsible for protecting the public health, Jon Taffer had better fucking not find disgustingness in this place when the episode airs. If he does, that means the health inspectors aren’t doing their jobs and your efforts to be a germaphobe are likely for shit.
For the record, Kristin and I did visit what Zanzibar was re-branded into, and it was nice. We were sort of half in the bag, so our pool skills were somewhere in the neighborhood of god-awful, but the place was clean, had a great beer selection, and was fairly reasonable price-wise. It was pretty dead for a Saturday night, though.
I’m both interested and terrified of what Jon Taffer finds at Zanzibar on an upcoming edition of “Bar Rescue.” If he finds filth, maybe the question isn’t “Where are all the fucking health inspectors?” but, “What good are all the fucking health inspectors?” That’s way scarier.