Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling issued a cease and desist order to Tropical Restaurant at Five Corners Tuesday afternoon. The fire chief told the restaurant not to use its kitchen’s grill, Fry-o-lator and rotisserie after the end of business that day, because of fire safety violations.
“The kitchen is a fire waiting to happen,” Chief Schilling told the Tisbury selectmen, at their meeting Tuesday.
Chief Schilling said he also issued a fire safety violation notice to building owner Eric Anderson. The notice carries a fine of $100 per violation, for a total of $400. Mr. Anderson has seven days to bring his building into compliance and 21 days to appeal the notice or pay the fines.
The popular Brazilian eatery serves breakfast and lunch and features a buffet salad bar and cold items, as well as a variety of barbequed meats cooked on a rotisserie. Another section of the restaurant is set aside for pizza orders and computer access.
Eric Anderson of Abingdon owns the building. Joelson Cardoso, who formerly worked as an Island landscaper, bought the restaurant business from Antonio Silva in July 2008.
Chief Schilling told the selectmen that in early July, Mr. Anderson said he had contacted a contractor who would address the issues. However, Mr. Anderson subsequently left the country on a trip and delayed scheduling the work, Mr. Schilling said.
He also told the selectmen that Tisbury’s board of health (BOH) met an hour before the selectmen’s meeting and voted to hold a public hearing next Tuesday to consider suspending Mr. Cardoso’s food operator’s license, because the violations pose a threat to public health and safety.
In response to Chief Schilling’s request, selectmen Jeff Kristal and Geoghan Coogan voted in turn to schedule a public hearing during their board meeting on August 17, to consider suspension of Tropical’s common victualler’s license. Selectman Tristan Israel had left the meeting early, because he was not feeling well.
In a phone call yesterday to Chief Schilling, who was off-Island, the chief said he had attempted to work with Mr. Anderson and Mr. Cardoso to address the restaurant’s fire safety issues since May 20.
“Instead of issuing a ticket, I issued a warning to Mr. Cardoso, the owner/operator of the restaurant, and Mr. Anderson, the owner of the building, and gave them 30 days to address the list of violations that I noted on my inspection,” Chief Schilling said.
He was accompanied that day by assistant health inspector Maura Valley, who performed a routine inspection.
Among the fire safety violations he cited, Chief Schilling said not only is the restaurant’s exhaust hood system non-compliant, but the cooking line has been expanded beyond its scope. The kitchen’s Ansul fire suppression system is non-functioning, and required fire extinguishers are not in place nor properly mounted within the kitchen.
Ms. Valley said most of the items she noted in her report had to do with cleaning issues, and the operator of the restaurant attended to them within about a week. However, she agreed with Mr. Schilling that the non-functioning fire suppression system is the big issue. And under the state sanitary code, Ms. Valley said, the BOH is authorized to suspend a restaurant’s license to operate for reasons that endanger public health and safety.
Ms. Valley said yesterday Mr. Cardoso would have an opportunity at the BOH public hearing next week to show cause why his license should not be suspended. “Hopefully, he’ll come in and say the system’s on its way, it’s going to be installed,” she said.
Chief Schilling said his decision to issue the cease and desist order and violation notice on Tuesday stemmed from a complaint he received from a contractor hired to work on the fire suppression system at Tropical.
“He basically refused to do any more work on the system because it was so out of compliance and he was concerned about his own culpability or liability for adding to a system that was as dangerous as the one that’s in there,” Chief Schilling said. “So I subsequently followed up on his complaint to me about the conditions, and that’s what got this ball rolling.”
Chief Schilling said Mr. Anderson was first made aware of the non-compliance of the restaurant’s exhaust hood system in 2002. In 2007, when given 30 days to comply with sprinkler system deficiencies in the building, Mr. Anderson took 60 days to resolve those issues, Chief Schilling also recalled.
“My point in bringing all of that up was we have a pattern here of a lack of a sense of urgency on Mr. Anderson’s part to address fire safety issues within his building,” he said.
Although Mr. Anderson has been out of the country recently, he responded to an email from The Times yesterday asking for comment.
“In the past, Tropical was advised of the defects in the exhaust system for the kitchen, which was original to the building when I purchased an interest 25 years ago,” he wrote. “Inasmuch as they are responsible for the kitchen equipment, it was up to them to get it up to code. I endeavored to help in this regard. They were served with a notice to comply at the end of May.”
Chief Schilling, however, disagreed. “I issued the fines to Mr. Anderson as the owner of the property, because he’s the responsible party that is coordinating and contracting all the work, and it is evident in the documentation that I have that he was made aware of all of these deficiencies years ago,” he said. “Mr. Cardoso has only been there for a short time.”
Chief Schilling said Mr. Anderson wrote in an email on July 22, that he was going to make the necessary arrangements for all the work but would not be able to get to it until he came back from his travels.
“My response to that was no, I gave you 30 days, you’re now at 60 days, you haven’t made substantial progress – I’m not giving you another three weeks to get back here and start this process,” Chief Schilling said. “You have seven days in which to get back to me with a firm plan or I’m going to issue additional fines and close the restaurant. And I never heard back from him.”
In the meantime, Mr. Cardoso continued to operate Tropical yesterday, until the hearing takes place and without using the grill or Fry-o-lator, but he was reeling from the restrictions on his business.
In talking with The Times at the restaurant late yesterday morning, Mr. Cardoso said he and his wife Maria scrambled to start preparing food for Wednesday on Tuesday afternoon, using the pizza oven.
They went back to work at 5 am on Wednesday morning to compensate for the extra time it would take to prepare food using the small oven. “We couldn’t do breakfast today without a grill,” Mr. Cardoso said. “We had to turn customers away.” For lunch, he could still sell pizzas, sandwiches, and cold items.
Mr. Cardoso said he is going to meet with a company today about installing the hood exhaust system, and he will attend next week’s BOH hearing.
“It’s very unfortunate because the young gentleman that’s running this restaurant is doing a very good job,” Chief Schilling said of Mr. Cardoso. “He’s the first person who’s been in there in a long time to have a successful formula. He’s got a good clientele that’s in there on a regular basis. But that’s also bad news, in that the kitchen is being used much more extensively than it was ever used in the past. So the risk factor has gone up significantly as the volume of restaurant business has gone up.
“I feel bad that Mr. Cardoso is in a situation that he was unaware of when he walked into it, but my sympathy ends there, in that this building is a tough one,” Chief Schilling said. “The way it’s constructed, if a fire goes in that building, it’s going right to the water.”