The company recently chosen by the city of Westfield to run outdoor concession stands at Grand Park has racked up more than 30 food-inspection violations in a two-month period—including more than one infraction for mouse droppings in multiple areas—during its short tenure operating the restaurants inside the Grand Park Events Center.
Westfield Restaurant Group, which is listed as Edgerock Restaurant Group in the Hamilton County Health Department database of food facility inspections, took over food operations at Grand Park's indoor soccer complex in February after the city evicted Jonathan Byrd’s.
Earlier this month, the city confirmed that it would not be renewing its contract for the outdoor food concessions with Carmel-based Urick Concessions and would be contracting with Westfield Restaurant Group for those services. The city’s contract with Urick ends Dec. 31.
The partners of Westfield Restaurant Group—Jack Miller, Bob Taylor and developer Birch Dalton—say all of the issues raised in the health reports from February through the end of October at the events center have been resolved. They attributed some of the violations to the large size of the building and its location amid open fields where mice are common in large numbers.
“We have a very pristine, clean operation. We have a big space. It’s not like a little Wendy’s,” Dalton said. “We’ve never paid a fine. We’ve corrected it immediately. We’re proactive and we’re learning.”
The pre-operational and opening inspections at the indoor facility in February had no violations. But on Sept. 6 a report found issues with food debris on the slicer, chopper, grill and cooktops; fruit flies in the dish room, pizza prep area and dirty linen area; expired salad dressing; and undated pasta and ground beef.
That inspection also found mouse droppings in the snack area, dish area and kitchen area. Fifteen violations were cited that day, with seven considered critical and eight listed as non-critical.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, mouse droppings can spread numerous diseases, including Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a rare but severe respiratory condition.
Documents attached to the report show that EcoLab Pest Control was hired to provide services.
Sept. 6 is the same day the city announced a partnership with the Indianapolis Colts to make Grand Park the official home of the Colts training camp for the next 10 years. The Colts plan to use the outdoor fields, but the contract also gives the team full and exclusive access to the indoor event center.
On Sept. 11, a health inspector returned for a follow-up visit and found five violations, including food debris on a chopper, flies in the dish area and undated turkey.
By then, according to the report, EcoLab had set up about 85 bait stations and traps throughout the facility, including in the concession area, dish room, upstairs bar and perimeter of the restaurant. The areas that had mouse droppings had been cleaned and sanitized with a bleach-water solution twice, according to the report.
On Sept. 18, an inspection showed no new rodent activity, but a report says that on Sept. 21 mouse feces were again found in the kitchen, concession stand, on soda syrup boxes and in a chemical cabinet.
The next report on Oct. 26 lists 11 violations, of which three were critical, but none involved mouse feces. The critical violations included roast beef with an expiration date of Sept. 29.
“We’re not denying we had issues, but we corrected them. We welcome inspections, and we’re here for the long haul,” Dalton said. “We’re not a restaurant you should not come to.”
When Jonathan Byrd’s operated the facility, an inspection in January discovered nine violations, including raw chicken being improperly stored, breakfast sandwiches not at a proper temperature and a door that needed to be secured better to prevent rodents or insects from entering.
The health department also conducted opening and temporary inspections for Urick Concessions at the building in February when the company helped fill the gap between Jonathan Byrd’s and Westfield Restaurant Group. No violations were found.
Dalton said they discovered part of the problem comes from the doors to the nearly 400,000-square-foot building being open for long periods of time when events are being set up. That's an issue that other major venues deal with as well. He added that the building being located next to open fields makes it even worse.
Taylor said he has contacted the Hamilton County Health Department to request another inspection. The venue is on a three-month inspection schedule now.
“You can’t sit back and say, ‘We didn’t have [any rodent droppings this time]—OK, great, we made it,’” Taylor said. “You can’t do that. It’s going to be a continual fight. It’s going to be something that we work on every day.”
In a written statement sent to IBJ, the city said it was their understanding that the rodent-dropping issues were addressed.
“The city is engaged in a temporary agreement that is month-to-month with the Westfield Restaurant Group at this time," the city said. "Since these health inspection reports have come to the attention of the administration, the contracts are being heavily reviewed. Grand Park is a state-of-the-art facility that hosts tournaments and events from all over the country and these violations are not acceptable.”