El Patron Mexican Restaurant on St. Joseph Street opened in March of 2009 and was recently shut down due to two consecutive health code violations. (Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

El Patron Mexican restaurant has closed after failing two consecutive health inspections.

The restaurant, which opened in March 2009 in the Imperial Hotel, at 100 St. Joseph St., faced an administrative hearing to determine whether its license would be suspended or revoked, said Clark Hepper, administrator for the state’s Office of Health Protection. 

“Before we could get that done, they pulled up stakes and left,” Hepper said. The restaurant closed in early August.

The restaurant failed a routine, unannounced inspection April 13. It scored a 67 out of a possible 100 and was cited for having five critical violations. A restaurant must score at least an 80 and have fewer than four critical violations to pass a routine inspection, Hepper said.

The critical violations were: an employee making bare-hand contact with a ready-to-eat food; a walk-in cooler that wasn’t maintaining the proper temperature; several cooked food products not being maintained at 140 degrees or higher; the restaurant not following proper procedures for cooling cooked food in a timely manner; and not having soap and paper towels at the hand-washing sink. 

Critical violations each deduct three to five points from a restaurant’s inspection score.

The failure meant the health department scheduled a follow-up inspection June 14. The restaurant needed to score an 85 or better with no critical violations to pass, Hepper said. The expectation is higher because the visit is planned for, he said.

El Patron scored an 83, and it had two critical violations on the follow-up visit. One was that a cooked food product measured only 130 degrees, Hepper said. The other violation was that chicken and beef were being stored in a freezer where the cooling unit’s drain tube was dripping onto the meat.

If an administrative hearing would have been held, the health department would have made a recommendation as to whether the restaurant’s license should be either revoked or suspended. The restaurant owner also would have had the opportunity to present evidence, and an administrative rule officer would have made the decision, Hepper said.

He said the restaurant closed before his office could set a date for the hearing or make a recommendation as to revocation or suspension.

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El Patron opened March 17, 2009, after scoring an 89 on its initial inspection, Hepper said. It passed its first routine inspection Oct. 28, 2009, scoring an 81 with two critical violations, one for not maintaining hot foods at the proper temperature, and the other for not following proper cool-down procedures for cooked foods.

Despite the violations discovered in the inspections, the restaurant was allowed to continue operating, Hepper said, because it did not pose an immediate health risk.

“We can close a facility immediately if it poses an immediate health risk to the public,” he said.

The restaurant was owned by Nayeli, Inc., with Christian Robles as the registered agent. Nayeli’s incorporation was cancelled by the Secretary of State’s office on May 20, 2010, for failure to file its annual report on time. No phone number was listed for either Robles or Nayeli.

The owners of the Imperial declined to comment on the loss of the tenant.

Contact Barbara Soderlin at 394-8417 or barbara.soderlin@rapidcityjournal.com.

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