Golan Heights Restaurant Closed Due to Several Health Violations
*Golan Heights re-opened for business on Tuesday, May 17, at 5:00 PM
It may be some time before Yeshiva students hear the familiar query “Hummus chips?” again.
On May 12, the New York City Department of Health has closed down the popular Golan Heights restaurant after an inspection identified numerous sanitary violations.
According to NYC.gov, inspectors found evidence of mice and live roaches in “food and/or non-food areas.” They also noted inadequate refrigeration and heating of foods and insufficient protection against food contamination. These alleged infractions and others - 8 in total, of which 6 were labeled 'critical' - led the inspectors to immediately shut down the restaurant.
This is not the first time that Golan Heights has been cited for the presence of mice. In December 2014 (though not in 2015), inspectors noted evidence of mice, and the restaurant has been cited multiple times for maintaining a “facility not vermin proof.” The New York City Department of Health inspects restaurants once or more per year. For each infraction found, 'points' are allocated, with the number of points per infraction varying based on type and severity of the violation. Establishments with 13 points or less are awarded an 'A' grade in the city's letter grading system; those with between 14 and 27 receive a 'B'; those with 28 or higher receive a 'C,' the lowest grade. Though its record in recent years had been at or near 'A' level, on May 12 Golan received 68 points.
The Department of Health website notes that the citations are subject to appeal and accordingly “may not be final. Restaurants are entitled to a hearing to challenge citations issued by the Department.” If the citations are sustained, there is a defined procedure that must be followed before the restaurant can once again serve customers. “To reopen, the establishment must submit a written statement to the Health Department indicating that it has corrected all the violations that led to its being closed. If it appears that sanitary conditions have improved, an inspector will conduct a reopening inspection while the establishment remains closed to the public. Health Department supervisors will determine whether it may reopen. After re-opening, the establishment will be inspected for compliance with the Health Code. If it is in sufficient compliance, it may remain open and will be inspected again in about three months.”
Before the restaurant's closing, Golan (as it is colloquially known) was one of the most popular of the several kosher eateries in the vicinity of the Yeshiva campus. Serving Israeli cuisine until 1 A.M. each morning, the restaurant saw significant numbers of student customers for its custom filled pitas and laffas. This popularity remained, though in smaller measure, after it was revealed several months ago that Golan was charging students tax on their officially tax-free student Caf Card accounts, which resulted in Golan's withdrawal from the Caf Card program.
Students who heard the news were disappointed, and many expressed revulsion. “As a frequent Golan customer, this along with the Caf Card issue has made me very upset. Not complying with food regulations puts customers at a real health risk,” said Darren May. “Although I really like their food, it's very unlikely that I would patronize Golan as much as I have done until now when they reopen.”
Others were more sanguine. “I worked there for a couple of weeks this past fall,” said Elliot Heller, “and they were very makpid (strict) about cleanliness. The very last thing that was done every night was to clean the whole place thoroughly. People should reserve judgment” as long as Golan Heights can still file an appeal. He said he would certainly eat there again, if they reopened with the approval of city health authorities and the mashgiach. “Golan was one of my favorite places to eat on campus. I hope they're able to get their act together and reopen soon.”
For now, students will have to turn to other food sources as the academic year comes to an end.