Barney Greengrass, the Upper West Side fish emporium named for New York's "Sturgeon King," closed Thursday after a surprise health department inspection found the premises to be covered in mouse droppings and roaches.
The deli will be able to reopen once it cleans things up and passes inspection, but the closure came directly on the tail of Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday where people often break fast with bagels and smoked fish. Speaking to the NY Times, Gary Greengrass — current president of the operation, and Barney's grandson — compared Yom Kippur to "Christmas season in one day times 1,000," only the demand is trickier to meet because "you are dealing with a perishable." To give you some idea of the volume of fish they're shipping, please see this wall of boxed orders, ready to travel all over the country.
When health department inspectors showed up at 9 a.m. on Thursday, they counted six violations, most of them critical, according to the NY Post. Cold food wasn't uniformly kept at the correct temperature; employee clothes were reportedly "soiled"; food wasn't acceptably protected from contamination; live roaches were spotted in the kitchen, along with nearly 300 mouse droppings, some of which were also tallied in food storage areas. All in all, investigators judged conditions at the restaurant to be "conducive to pests and other food safety concerns," the Times reports. Although the closure isn't permanent, Greengrass told the Times it felt like "a stab in the stomach."
“Listen, these inspectors come in and it feels like they’re performing a colonoscopy on you,” he said. “No one’s home would pass inspection.”
Still, Barney's health department record is not quite sterling: In June, inspectors also found that cold foods had been stored above temperature, plus evidence of mice. Rodents were also a problem during a March inspection, and apparently have been since about 2016. Still, the 111-year-old establishment has managed to regain an "A" grade after every visit. A call to the restaurant went unanswered on Monday morning, but a message on its answering machine said doors will reopen on Wednesday, October 16th.