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Not only do rats like gorditas, they like faux French food too!

2007_02_ratspain.jpgJust after the Health Department announced new restaurant inspection measures in the wake of the rat-infested, yet-Health Department-passed Village Taco Bell-KFC, WNBC found rats at an Au Bon Pain at Third Avenue and 40th Street. Rats like Midtown, too! WNBC spoke to an ABP representative who "expressed surprise over the findings." (The last time the location was inspected was last August.) A reader updated us with the situation:

the health department must have just been there and ordered the place shut, because there's a big yellow sticker/placard on the front door, which notes that the joint has been "closed by order of the commissioner of health and mental hygiene." the doors are locked.

but here's the really weird part: as of three minutes ago, there are still about six customers in the place finishing their meals! perhaps they can't read.

Crazy! But that raises another question: If you just bought a meal, and then the restaurant was suddenly closed by the Health Department, would you stay and eat it or take it to go? And it's cute how there's a note from Au Bon Pain that they are closed early - it's almost sweet.

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If you watch the WNBC video about the ratty Taco-Bell KFC , the best part is when reporter Tim Minton asks Health Commissioner Tom Frieden if there were possibilities for the restaurant to pass inspection "other than incompetence, sloppiness or corruption?" Frieden grimaces and says, "That about covers it."

The Observer has a great look at how the story emerged. A freelance cameraman saw it and sent it to WNBC: "He shot through a window at an angle to avoid glare, he said, and used a 30-volt light to illuminate the rats. Most were at the rear of the restaurant, about 100 feet away, in easy range of a 20-to-1 zoom lens."

WABC 7's "dirty restaurant story" is about the Vegas Diner in Bensonhurst being shut down after an inspection. No rats, though!

Photographs of the offending Au Bon Pain by The Smoking Gun