ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - Angie Torres and Stacy Latham have been eating at the Sloppy Pelican restaurant on 75th Avenue in St Pete Beach for years.
"I've never been sick. I've never had no problems. I enjoy the food. I enjoy the people, everybody that works there," Torres said.
"It's a great atmosphere," Latham added.
But they were not aware the state shut the place down on November 18 and 19 after finding two large rats in the kitchen along with rodent rub marks on the walls and rodent droppings.
"OK, things happen. Every restaurant around here has had one once in a while," said Latham.
"For every rat you see, there's hundreds you don't," Torres said.
During that same inspection, inspectors also found employees with no food certification, clams thawed at room temperature, and slime in the ice machine.
ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan went into the restaurant to find out what's been done to clean things up.
"According to the inspector, he found 2 large rats in the kitchen during the inspection?" Ryan asked Ben, the kitchen manager on duty.
"I wasn't here for that," Ben replied.
Ben wouldn't give us his last name but says he has been with the Sloppy Pelican for 6 months.
The waterfront restaurant has had 59 critical violations written up over the last 20 months and had three follow-up inspections required by the state.
"I'd have to talk to them. Like I said, I wasn't here," Ben said.
"So you knew nothing about it?" asked Ryan.
"I just got back 2 days ago," Ben replied.
Some of the issues found during another inspection on April 1, 2010 included food not properly date marked in the cooler, barehand contact on ready-to-eat foods, and small flying insects in the bar area.
"So you haven't seen any of these reports?" asked Ryan.
"I just got back today," Ben replied.
Ben says he hasn't been around, so he couldn't answer any of our other questions.
And despite what inspectors found, these loyal customers will stay loyal.
"We love coming. I've never been sick. And I'm sure there's a lot worse around so it doesn't really bother me," Torres said.
"So you guys will be back?" asked Ryan.
"Oh, there's no doubt," Latham replied.
Response from an attorney of the Sloppy Pelican Restaurant:
Dear Ms Ryan:
I am writing pursuant to our conversation of 1/04/11. As you are aware our firm represents the business known as the Sloppy Pelican, presently operating on St. Pete Beach. It is our understanding your station plans to air a story regarding certain health code violations referenced on your stations website.
As I indicated to you earlier, my clients are aware of the violations and have complied with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation notice of violations while resolving the problems to the satisfaction of the Department.
As we discussed, any mention of evidence of a facility failing to comply with any Department standards is cause for concern and requires immediate action. As such, those actions to remedy those issues were taken eagerly and promptly by management to ensure the patrons continued enjoyment of our facility. In Florida, as a restaurant providing outdoor food service, we do deal with elements and challenges not exclusively within our control. However, with continued vigilance, it is our belief ALL food and beverage establishments can continue to provide a positive dining and entertainment experience much like the one we strive to provide our customers, and one our customers expect and deserve.
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns and wish to express we have more than satisfactorily addressed all concerns cited on your stations website. If you have any further questions or wish to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me at my office. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration of our response.
Donald C. Anderson III
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Top Money Headlines
John Matarese has a big development in the controversy over Food Stamps for pet food.