ST. PETERSBURG — Acropolis Greek Taverna was shut down for several hours midday Friday after a state inspection found a raft of violations at the restaurant, including live and dead roaches.
It's the second time in the past five weeks that a popular downtown restaurant has been shut down by health violations that include roaches. Just last month, Ceviche on Beach Drive was shuttered for 24 hours after inspectors found a number of health problems.
Acropolis manager David Stead invited a Tampa Bay Times reporter into the kitchen about 4:30 p.m. Friday, shortly after the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation allowed the restaurant to reopen.
An inspector, Stead said, found termites above the first floor and a few live roaches in an electrical box attached to the dishwasher — nothing else.
"We had an issue. It's been corrected," he said. "It's all good."
Minutes later, the reporter returned to the restaurant with a complete list of the state's 22 findings. Six were considered "high priority," including flying insects near the ice bin, 11 live roaches on and around the dishwasher, two under the fryer, one under the ice bin, another under canned goods stored at the front of the cooks line, two dead in the dish area and one dead inside the ice machine.
The inspection also discovered food stored at unsafe temperatures, employees touching food with bare hands when they shouldn't and a dishwasher operating below the proper minimum strength.
When the reporter confronted Stead with the host of violations he neglected to mention, the manager shrugged.
"What did you want me to tell you?" he asked.
Stead insisted he had told the truth, then said, "Go by your report."
"I told you the problem. I told you the problem has been fixed," he continued. "Done deal."
But if recent history is any indication, the deal may not be done.
State officials consistently made similar discoveries during their 2012 inspections. Over seven visits between April and December, officials found 61 "critical" violations at Acropolis.
Among the agency's findings, some of which were repeat violations: chicken sauce found at 89 degrees, raw shrimp and fish being thawed in a sink, dried rodent droppings on top of dry good containers and beside the ice machine, employee training provided by an unapproved provider, raw eggs stored over cooked rice and sauces, dead roaches in the ice machine, live roaches in a variety of areas and a multitude of issues related to proper handwashing.
It's unclear why Acropolis, 515 Central Ave., was shut down after Friday's inspection but not for any of last year's.
After Ceviche's problems were reported by the Times and other media, the restaurant let go of its general manager at the St. Petersburg restaurant and got rid of its cleaning and pest control companies. The restaurant also enlisted a third-party company to conduct monthly reviews of its operations.
Acropolis and Ceviche, 10 Beach Drive, are less than a half-mile apart.
Is it just a coincidence that two popular downtown restaurants were shut down by violations within just a few weeks?
"That's still being investigated," said Samantha Stratton, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. "We are looking into it."
Stratton said she did not know if the agency recently hired more inspectors or whether new inspectors monitor the area.
"When we have an answer," she said, "we'll get back to you."
The agency praises restaurants when inspectors don't find any violations, releasing regular lists of the problem-free establishments.
When asked why the agency doesn't notify the public when violations are found, Stratton said: "I don't know. That's a good question. Do you get the list?"
Times staff writer Mark Puente and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]