Vancouver restaurant, kitchen shut down after rat allegedly found in soup

Health inspectors have closed a Vancouver restaurant and a kitchen in the same building after finding evidence of rodents. The kitchen produces soup for Crab Park Chowdery where a patron posted a social media video of what appears to be a dead rat in a bowl of soup.

Health inspectors investigate after social media post shows rodent in patron's meal

A video posted on Instagram Dec. 27 appeared to show a dead rat inside a bread bowl of soup at the Crab Park Chowdery in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood. The restaurant has since announced its closure. (Instagram/pisun_ne_ne)

A restaurant in East Vancouver has been shut down a day after a rat was allegedly found in a bowl of soup produced in a kitchen in the same building.

On Thursday, a video posted by a patron at Crab Park Chowdery showed what appears to be a dead rat inside a bread bowl of soup.

Vancouver Coastal Health inspectors visited the cafe Friday morning to investigate, and allowed it to stay open.

However, Mamie Taylor's restaurant and a commercial kitchen in the same building where the chowder house's soup was made have been ordered to close. The owner of Mamie Taylor's also owns the commercial kitchen.

The video quickly garnered hundreds of comments and was shared on food forums around the city. By Friday morning, Vancouver Coastal Health said it had received several complaints.

VCH spokesperson Tiffany Akins said inspectors found evidence of rodents at Mamie Taylor's and immediately closed the restaurant and kitchen.

Owner responds

Ashton Phillips, owner of Crab Park Chowdery, said he takes full responsibility for the situation and will try to get to the bottom of how a rodent ended up in the dish.

Phillips said it is nearly impossible for a rodent to have climbed up the large cans the restaurant stores its soup in, and that many people are suspicious about the authenticity of the video, but that staff apologized to the guests immediately and offered them a $100 gift card.

"Unfortunately, when a mistake happens in today's world, when it gets into that social media world the ball starts rolling and it's really hard to stop," said Phillips.

Ashton Phillips, owner of Crab Park Chowdery, said it is nearly impossible for a rat to climb into the large cans the restaurant keeps their soup in. (CBC News)

Video authentic, diner says

In an Instagram message, the woman who shot the video said she and her friend immediately told staff about the rat. She said the food was taken away and the owner offered them both a full refund as well as the gift card.

The woman who was served the soup, Contessa Choe, said there was nothing fake about the video.

"It's not like it was planned, like any of us was keeping [a rat] in our pocket to be put in the soup to be on camera," Choe said.

Contessa Choe said she originally thought the rat allegedly found in her soup was a large clam. (CBC)

Choe said the video shows the moment of discovery. Her friend, who posted the video, is a visitor from Ukraine and wanted to document her trip to Vancouver.

"I pulled out what I thought was a giant clam," she said. "And then I thought saw that it had a tail and that it had eyes.

"And I was like, oh, that's not a clam. I don't think that's supposed to be in there."

She described the discovery as a surreal experience that has left her shaken about dining out.

"It was just, like, an eye opening experience," she said. "You don't think that this stuff is real but it's actually very real."

Repeated issues?

In a statement, Ron Oliver, who owns Mamie Taylor's restaurant and the commercial kitchen where the soup was prepared, said they operate independently from one another.

He said that the kitchen, in the basement of Mamie Taylor's building, was leased out to the chowdery but as of Friday, it is no longer a tenant.

A closed sign visible on the front door of Vancouver restaurant Mamie Taylor's mid-afternoon Friday. (CBC News)

"Over the course of the past two years of its tenancy, we have been very supportive of Crab Park Chowdery," Oliver said. "However, we have also been forced to raise serious concerns with both staff and ownership of Crab Park Chowdery on matters of organization, food safety and general cleanliness."

A person speaking on behalf of the restaurant said none of those "serious concerns" were seen as pressing enough to report to health authorities.

He said Mamie Taylor's staff would raise issues with Crab Park Chowdery staff and they would typically be addressed for a time but then reoccur. 

Past inspections

Crab Park Chowdery was last inspected on Oct. 10, when VCH staff found four critical health and safety violations — though none mentioned rodents.

However, a routine inspection on Feb. 6 found "signs of rodent activity" at the restaurant. Inspectors also found the restaurant wasn't being kept clean and conditions "may lead to harbouring/breeding of pests."

With files from Tanya Fletcher and Liam Britten