A downtown Lawrence restaurant voluntarily closed its doors earlier this month after a health inspector discovered nearly 100 live roaches on the premises.
A day later, Yokohama Sushi, 811 New Hampshire St., reopened. For area diners unfamiliar with the inspection process, it may seem like a fast turnaround, but a Kansas Department of Agriculture spokesperson called it a typical timeline.
On May 2, a restaurant inspection at Yokohama discovered the roaches, explained Heather Lansdowne, a spokesperson for the KDA. The next day, the restaurant voluntarily closed its doors and underwent a follow-up inspection, which found additional live roaches, though fewer in number. A pest control company was called in to treat the restaurant for the insects, caulking and baiting areas around water lines, crevices, cracks and near equipment, according to the inspector's report. A second follow-up inspection later that day discovered no roaches, and the restaurant was listed back in compliance with health codes, the report says.
The restaurant reopened May 4.
A Yokohama representative did not return phone calls from the Journal-World seeking comment for this story.
When asked whether a single day of work was enough to clear up a significant roach problem and make a restaurant sanitary for its customers, Lansdowne said the restaurant followed a usual pattern based on the department's standards.
"The key element of the analysis is, 'What is the current and future status of the restaurant?'" Lansdowne said. "And if a restaurant has shown that they have gone through appropriate measures to be clean, gone through appropriate measures to prevent future concerns, then they're a safe, clean establishment to be open.
"There isn't a set amount of time a restaurant can be closed to correct a problem. It varies dramatically from case to case depending on what the situation is," Lansdowne added. "If the restaurant is closed they can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time."
May 3 was not the first time Yokohama has voluntarily closed after safety violations were noted. In June 2010, the restaurant shut down when an inspector found more than 30 live roaches and roach egg sacks in the kitchen. The restaurant reopened the next day, though several live and dead roaches were still found during a follow-up inspection.
Past reports detail other occasions when pests were found at Yokohama:
• Live and dead roaches, mouse droppings and a roach egg sack were found in the kitchen in May 2011.
• Dead roaches were found in the restaurant in November 2012 and March 2014.
• Unspecified "flying" and "crawling" insects numbering up to 50 were found in the restaurant in March, April and August 2015.
Lansdowne could not say how common it is for Lawrence restaurants to voluntarily close to resolve health code violations.
While Yokohama's most recent roach problem may seem egregious, it's not the worst case noted by health inspectors at a Lawrence restaurant in the past year. Last December, the Steak 'n Shake at 3111 South Neider Road reportedly had more than 830 live roaches and hundreds of dead roaches during a single safety visit. After voluntarily closing, the restaurant was allowed to reopen just two days later, but it has since closed for good.
When asked whether KDA's standards for reopening a restaurant with significant health code concerns are adequate, Lansdowne said the process can't rely entirely on the health inspectors or the department.
"If they did all those things they're required to do by law, required by all the indicators we have on what it takes to prevent pests in their establishment, then they're approved to open," she said. "It really is incumbent upon the restaurant to continue those best practices that we practice and teach."
Once a restaurant eliminates pests and the conditions that allowed them to flourish, it can be difficult if not impossible to predict what might happen next, Lansdowne explained. And the KDA has a limited amount of resources to address the issues at hand.
"We only can know what we can see when we inspect them, and we can't inspect them every day," she said. "And we do respond to complaints. So if there's a concern at a place, we will follow up."
In addition to recent work to eliminate insects within Yokohama, a pest control company will continue to monitor and treat the restaurant, the inspection report notes. That company will also continue to keep the KDA updated on the business' insect situation.
Health inspectors returned to Yokohama for a follow-up Thursday, and the restaurant continues to be listed in compliance with health code. No roaches, dead or alive, were noted in the most recent inspection.
More on Lawrence restaurant inspections
● See which local establishments have been marked out of compliance or have been listed with 10 or more code violations, on public safety reporter Conrad Swanson's Lights & Sirens blog.