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Covington restaurant closes after alleged repeat health violations
Krystal replaces management, staff, plans to reopen
Krystal is at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 278 and Elm Street near downtown Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

This story has been updated with new information.

COVINGTON, Ga. — The state health department has revoked the operating permit for Krystal restaurant in Covington after it allegedly failed two consecutive health inspections in February and received its fourth permit suspension within a year.

Krystal Co. officials, meanwhile, said they are planning to reopen after bringing in new management and staff for the longtime Covington location of the popular restaurant chain.

The restaurant at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 278 and Elm Street received a score of 50 U on Feb. 23 after receiving a score of 56 U during an inspection by the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health Departments on Feb. 14. 

“If the facility continues to operate while the permit is revoked, a citation may be given resulting in court action,” an inspector wrote. 

Its permit holder will meet with an attorney for the Board of Health — likely this week — to determine if the restaurant’s permit will be reinstated, said Chad Wasdin, spokesperson for the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health Departments.

The report stated the facility's permit was suspended due to the food service establishment earning a “U” and not receiving at least a “C” within 10 days.

A report issued after the Feb. 14 inspection stated Krystal district manager Constantina Santana had presented a corrective action plan and the restaurant’s permit had been reinstated. 

“After review by Newton Environmental Health modifications were agreed to and documented on a revised corrective action plan.”

However, it also noted a follow-up was to be conducted by Feb. 24. 

“Please be advised that if another score of less than 70, then the facility will be subject to permanent permit revocation,” the report stated. 

An inspector on Feb. 23 then gave the restaurant a score of 50 U after a follow-up inspection noted numerous violations.

“Based on today's score, the person in charge (PIC) does not demonstrate active managerial control with the facility,” an inspector wrote following the inspection. 

“It is the responsibility of the person in charge to ensure compliance with the food code by demonstrating active managerial control within their facility.”

It stated the PIC was unable to answer basic food safety questions, including how to prevent of foodborne diseases by employees.

The inspector also observed the PIC dump chemical down a handwashing sink. 

“A handwashing facility may not be used for purposes other than handwashing.”

Also seen was “black mold-like substances on the baffle of the ice machine” and “heavy residue under the ice lid by the drink fountain station. 

“The PIC properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized the baffle and replaced the unit.” 

The inspector “observed multiple beef patties cooked under the required temperature of 155 degrees.

“The food employee stated that these items were not intended to be cooked to order or under-cooked. Raw animal foods that are cooked using a non-continuous cooking process shall be cooked using a process that heats all parts of the food to the minimum cook temperature.

“All sandwiches were discarded.” 

Other food also had been kept beyond a pre-specified limit for being sanitary. Employees also were “prepping food with rings and arm bands on.”

“Food employees may not wear jewelry including medical information jewelry on their arms and hands while preparing food (except for a plain ring such as a wedding band).” 

“All employees removed their jewelry and properly washed their hands before returning back to food prep.” 

The report also stated the inspector observed:

• “A hole in the countertop (constructed of stainless steel and wood). 

“The stainless steel is jagged, and the wood is exposed (where it is absorbent and not easily cleanable). 

“Observed missing sheet metal of the walk in cooler door missing exposing the wood frame. Observed the pipe to the ice machine not connected and leaking water onto the floor. 

“Observed accumulations in the hinges of the reach in coolers under the grills, accumulations of dust on the condenser fan in the walk in cooler, and buildup of grease on the back of the grill area.

“Nonfood-contact surfaces of equipment shall be kept free of an accumulation of dust, dirt, food residue, and other debris.” 

• “Cove base detaching from the wall in the kitchen area. In food service establishments in which cleaning methods other than water flushing are used for cleaning floors, the floor and wall junctures shall be coved and closed to no larger than (1 mm). 

“Observed ceiling ties missing in the fountain drink storage room. Studs, joists and rafters may not be exposed in areas subject to moisture. 

“Observed the ceiling tiles and walls with accumulations of food residue and dirt in the kitchen area. 

“Observed accumulations of drink syrups and the caps to the bulk bag on the floor in the drink storage room. 

“All physical facilities shall be maintained in good repair and shall be cleaned as often as necessary to keep them clean and by methods that prevent contamination of food products. 

• “Observed a hole in the bottom of the back door. Outer openings of a food service establishment shall be protected against the entry of insects and rodents …”

The restaurant’s 1,800-square-foot building was completed in 1981 and a remodeling done in 2001, according to tax records.

Atlanta-based Krystal Co. said in a statement Tuesday, "We take cleanliness and operational excellence very seriously."

"We have brought in new senior leadership and have made immediate changes to the restaurant level leadership at this location. We have deployed a crew to address any deficiencies and will reopen as soon as the location meets our own rigorous standards."