For the second time in as many years, the famous Stage Deli in Manhattan was shuttered by the Dept. of Health after inspections found the restaurant infested with vermin. The Times Square institution was last closed in mid-2006 after it accrued too many points during a health inspection (points are for violations and a score above 28 is a failure.) As reported in The New York Times, the DOH inspected the Stage last Wednesday and assigned it a failing score. The deli was allowed to remain open while it corrected major violations, but a subsequent inspection 48 hours later still resulted in insufficient cleanliness.
Most of the current violations are located in the restaurant's 4,000 square foot basement. Co-owner and manager Paul Zolenge said that every step was being taken to repair pipes and seal cracks in walls that might be allowing mice and other vermin into areas below street level, while emphasizing that the restaurant area upstairs was very clean.
The Dept. of Health has toughened up its stance on closing restaurants--even popular tourist attractions--since a scandal surrounding a West Village Taco Bell exposed serious lapses in inspections. Stomachs turned when videotape was released of dozens of rats frolicking openly in the fast food joint after hours. The resulting crackdown had many restaurant owners claiming they were the victims of a hysterical witch hunt by the DOH.