Inspector searches Mexico Lindo

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 19, 2006

By Rebecca Houg, staff writer

Rodents and restaurants are two things area diners never want to associate with each other.

The Mexico Lindo restaurant was inspected by the Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday after a customer called the Southeast District Office to make a complaint about the presence of rats in the building.

Gary Edwards from the Minnesota Department of Health said the health inspector sent to check on the restaurant&8217;s cleanliness didn&8217;t see any rodents but a few droppings and a small amount of urine was found.

&8220;It was not enough to say, &8216;Oh, my god! We have an infestation,&8217;&8221; he said. &8220;But, clearly there was evidence there.&8221;

Edwards said the situation would be monitored and they will be keeping in touch with the pest control and restaurant operators.

&8220;I&8217;ve seen worse, much worse,&8221; he said. &8220;This is a time of year where rodents get into places.&8221;

The manager of Mexico Lindo, Ruth Gutierrez, is surprised by the inspection&8217;s findings.

&8220;Up until yesterday, we&8217;ve never had anyone complain of seeing anything inside,&8221; she said.

&8220;I don&8217;t know why anyone would want to give our restaurant a bad reputation, no restaurant&8217;s perfect,&8221; Gutierrez said.

She was willing to show the health report and the kitchen. She said they clean at night when they close and again in the morning.

&8220;We don&8217;t have anything to hide,&8221; she said.

The customer who reported the incident wishes to remain anonymous but said her husband was the one who actually saw the rat.

&8220;We were sitting there at the bar having a beer at about 9:30 p.m. and my husband was facing the door. He didn&8217;t tell me at the time, but he saw a rat come out of the one side of the first booth and walk around the table pedestal base and crawl into the bottom of the other side of the booth,&8221; she said. &8220;He didn&8217;t tell me, he just said we should finish our beers and go. When we got out of the restaurant he told me what happened. He said he didn&8217;t want me to make a scene, because I would have.&8221;

She found the whole thing pretty disturbing and wished she had been able to create a scene.

If the rat was comfortable coming out at that time when it&8217;s pretty loud and busy, she didn&8217;t want to imagine what the rodent is doing when there&8217;s no one around.

Edwards said people don&8217;t need to get alarmed and that the Department of Health would have closed the restaurant if there was a serious problem.

&8220;Rats get people excited, no doubt,&8221; he said. &8220;Rats are not necessarily full of disease.&8221;

He said salmonella was the main health risk associated with the rodents.

&8220;It&8217;s not any worse than if employees are not washing their hands or coming to work sick,&8221; Edwards said.

The inspector sent to the site didn&8217;t find any major problems with cleanliness, he said.

&8220;We didn&8217;t feel like it was a serious situation or out of control. And of course, we will be monitoring them,&8221; he said. &8220;Our goal is to protect public health, number one.&8221;

After Thursday&8217;s inspection, these recommendations were given to the restaurant:

&169; The restaurant must hire a pest control operator to eliminate the rodents

&169; Gaps around doors must be properly sealed to keep mice and rats from entering the building

&169; All food must be stored in sealed containers

&169; The floor and corners of the kitchen must be kept clean

The Department of Health will continue inspections to make sure the situation gets fixed.

There is a new owner, Reyes Aranda, purchasing the business at the end of the month and he said he has been busy making improvements and sealing everything.

Aranda said he would be bringing his family with him from Wisconsin and he will be maintaining the business very closely.

Gutierrez said there have been traps set since before the inspection and they haven&8217;t found anything in them.

&8220;Our customers are our top priority,&8221; she said.

&8220;It does concern us, because of our customers, but up until now we haven&8217;t had any complaints, we haven&8217;t seen anything,&8221; says Gutierrez.

So far, nobody has complained of getting sick from the food.