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Erik Burgess, Published May 24 2013

Restaurant may close after health violations; customer launches online campaign to fix it up

FARGO – After multiple and repeat health code violations, it appears a south Fargo buffet restaurant will soon close its doors.

But a local woman and frequent eater at the Grand Buffet, 1620 32nd Ave. S., has started an online campaign to get the owners the cash they need to fix up the restaurant.

Owners of the Grand Buffet were given a 10-day suspension of their restaurant license on Monday. The restaurant opened in July 2004, but over the past several months has had repeat health code issues, said Myron Berglund, director of environmental health at Fargo Cass Public Health.

Berglund said he has heard from the owners that they don’t plan to fight the suspension.

A phone number listed for the restaurant was not working Friday, and no other number could be found for the owners.

According to the health report, several issues need to be resolved before the license can be reinstated, including educating staff on not eating food in the kitchen area, properly dating and marking foods stored in freezers and coolers, having functioning cooler and freezers, removing broken machinery from the premises, and properly cleaning all areas of the kitchen.

Berglund said the restaurant’s dining room is in tip-top shape, but the kitchen had “continual problems that just didn’t get fixed” for months, such as a floor that seemed to have more broken tiles every time an inspector checked in.

“(The front end) was very good. We didn’t have violations there,” he said. “But it was back in the kitchen area where the food was prepped, that only we see. Not many of the customers get back there.”

But Jodi Rae Ingstad, who started the fundraiser, said it’s unfair to suspend the license when the restaurant owners have no other means to make money and repair the restaurant.

“The family isn’t able to fix everything,” Ingstad said. “They struggle. The entire family works there. Extended family works there. It’s their life.”

Her online fundraiser has a goal of raising $1,500 in the next two weeks. Ingstad, who lives on a farm north of Valley City but frequents the restaurant when she’s in Fargo, said she doesn’t know the owners, but has always been impressed by the food and atmosphere.

“This is fresh, healthy, good food. I’ve never ever, ever once gotten sick,” said Ingstad, noting that she’s a Type 1 diabetic and is “picky” about where she eats.

“I understand regulations, but it was an extreme thing, and people need chances,” she said.

Berglund said the restaurant owners have been afforded plenty of chances.

In late April, health officials worked with owners on a cleaning schedule to help them address continual problems.

Health officials told the owners last week that they could voluntarily close for five days to fix some of the issues. The restaurant closed May 17 but was open again by the weekend, with no issues addressed, Berglund said.

While some employees have been “very cooperative” with health officials, Berglund said improvements just weren’t being made.

“In fact, it was going backwards a little bit,” he said.

Ingstad said she wants to get in contact with the restaurant owners to give them the money she raises. As of 6 p.m. Friday, only $40 had been raised.


Online

To find the fundraiser for Grand Buffet, go to http://tinyurl.com/GBfundraiser


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518