Thai restaurant in Squirrel Hill reopens after 3-day closure prompted by raw sewage leak

Updated 3 hours ago

A Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood cited for a slew of health violations in recent months has been cleared to resume prepping lunches for university students after a three-day shutdown prompted by raw sewage runoff next to a walk-in cooler, public health records show.

Sun Penang, which operates out of a facility at 5829 Forbes Avenue, had its health permitting status temporarily revoked on Friday, then reinstated on Monday after resolving most violations, Allegheny County Health Department reports show.

Multiple calls to the restaurant were not returned.

The health department ordered Sun Penang to stop all food preparation and shut down Friday because of an “imminent health hazard,” a broken drain line resulting in raw sewage flooding the facility’s basement. An inspector arrived to find the owner scrambling “to snake and clear the drain himself using rented equipment,” the Dec. 7 report said.

The drainage problem resulted in 2 to 4 inches deep of dirty water and sewage blocking access to a walk-in cooler, the report said. Dirty water could be seen inside the cooler, though all food was off the floor and stored on wire shelves, the report said. A plumber was called and fixed the issue before the inspector left.

The restaurant’s owner told inspectors that the drainage backup happened after Friday’s boxed lunches were prepared and delivered to nearby campuses.

Sun Penang has been undergoing renovations and closed for months to diners while its primary customers have been university students.

Last month, the health department issued a consumer alert for Sun Penang after officials found a rat’s nest and fresh droppings on food storage shelves during a Nov. 30 inspection. Officials cited the restaurant for violations across several categories, including cooling and holding food at proper temperatures, cross contamination, ventilation, maintenance, pest management and cleaning and sanitization.

RELATED: Sun Penang restaurant in Squirrel Hill cited for rat’s nest, fresh droppings

Food contact surfaces, equipment, shelves, the interior of a walk-in cooler and the outside of a freezer were “all encrusted with debris and grime,” with “blood, grime or condensate observed inside all coolers” and mold found in the basement cooler, the report said. The bar cooler, in an area shut down for remodeling, was shut off but never cleaned out and still contained rotten food and maggots that officials already had observed during a Nov. 15 inspection, county officials said.

In June, inspectors cited the restaurant for operating mobile units at Carnegie Mellon University without proper permits and holding food at unsafe temperatures.

A consumer alert does not require a food provider to close.

Most of Sun Penang’s health violations had been corrected as of this week. In a report dated Monday , Sun Pengang received satisfactory remarks for cleaning and sanitizing all equipment and floors as well as the walk-in cooler interior. Among changes, the owner said that going forward, the facility will hire pest control professionals more regularly and the grease trap will be cleaned every quarter rather than every six months.

The health department asked the owner to save sales records for its bulk deliveries of boxed lunches to local universities for a possible audit. The restaurant also was ordered to refrain from serving food at unsafe temperatures in unpermitted vehicles.

County officials plan to conduct a follow-up inspection on Jan. 10.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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