PEI

Charlottetown restaurant shut down due to 'imminent risk' to public health

The Unique Wok has been shut down by health officials due to an "imminent risk” to public health.

Unique Wok had 30 food safety violations in last inspection

Unique Wok of Charlottetown has faced numerous food safety violations in recent years. (Sally Pitt/CBC)

The Unique Wok restaurant has been shut down indefinitely by public health officials.

The Charlottetown restaurant, also known as the Golden Wok, was cited for 30 food safety violations during a surprise inspection on Jan. 21, and the province took the unusual step of closing the restaurant immediately.

"We only do that in a case where we think there's an imminent risk to public health," said Ryan Neale, manager of environmental health with P.E.I.'s Department of Health and Wellness.

"Given the types of violations and the critical nature of those, we felt by closing the establishment we immediately eliminate the risk to the public."

Violations ranged from failing to store and heat food at proper temperatures to evidence of insects and rodents, unsanitary washroom conditions, and improper hand washing.

In addition, inspectors had to throw out a "significant amount of food" that was considered contaminated, said Neale.

The dishwasher was broken and there was no system to sanitize food preparation equipment or dishware, he said. In addition the two hand wash stations weren't working so employees were unable to wash their hands properly.

"There was evidence of insects and rodents: insects in the storage areas and evidence of rodents in the food storage, food preparation and dishwashing areas," said Neale.

2nd closure

This is the second closure for Unique Wok in the past six months. Health officials shut it down in August after finding 16 violations, but cleared it to reopen after a week, after officials were satisfied the problems had been fixed.

It passed a routine inspection in October.

Neale told CBC he believes it's the first time in about 15 years that health officials have had to close a restaurant.

While the restaurant reopened after a week in the summer, this time the closure will be longer, said Neale.

"At this point in time we're really not considering if or when the premise would reopen," said Neale.

A sign on the front door of Unique Wok says the restaurant is closed until further notice. (Sally Pitt/CBC)

He said over the next couple of weeks his staff will meet with the owner to review the food safety requirements, and the importance of protecting their customers.

The owner and one staff member have had food safety training, said Neale.

"We're going to be looking at additional training for these folks as well as training for the other staff in the establishment," he said.

If the owner is able to make all the necessary improvements, he will still need to convince officials that those standards will be maintained.

"That's going to be a big part of our conversation going forward with this operator, who will be held to a high standard if and when we get to a point where he's interested in reopening," said Neale.

If the restaurant reopens it will be held to a high standard, says Ryan Neale. (John Robertson/CBC)

Environmental health staff have been working with the restaurant owner and staff to remedy ongoing food safety issues, and inspected the restaurant nine times in 2018.

The Unique Wok had 25 violations last year. In 2017, it had 37 violations — the highest number of any restaurant on P.E.I. that year.

Neale said the vast majority of restaurants are very diligent in maintaining food safety standards. His staff do more than 3,000 inspections a year, he said, and — when there are problems — follow up with about 1,500 consultations a year. Most problems are fixed by the time the follow up inspections are done.

Wants to reopen

A sign on the door of Unique Wok reads "Closed until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience."

The owner has plans to reopen the restaurant. (Sally Pitt/CBC)

When reached by phone, the Unique Wok's owner Jun (Frank) Liu told CBC he had been away visiting family in China when the restaurant was closed. He said he cut his trip short when he was notified and arrived back on P.E.I. Tuesday.

Liu said he was aware that one of his woks was broken, but not of the other problems identified by health officials. He said he planned to meet environmental health officials soon and review the violations.

He told CBC News he plans to fix all the problems and hopes to reopen soon.

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About the Author

Sally Pitt

Producer

Sally Pitt is a producer with CBC and has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years in online, TV, radio and print. She specializes in justice issues and also works with the CBC Atlantic Investigative Unit. You can reach her at sally.pitt@cbc.ca.

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