Decomposing rat carcasses, rodent droppings, fruit flies, roaches and awful smells are just some of the delights that greeted the city health inspectors who shut down Downey's Irish Pub and Restaurant, in Philadelphia, the day before St. Patrick's Day this year -- only for the pub to open two days later.
For what seems like the worst Irish pub in America this crack down didn't come too soon. After a three-hour inspection they city officials found Downey's to be in breach of 51 health-code violations. However, two days later the bar was open again.
The report read "This inspection has revealed that the establishment is not in satisfactory compliance and that current management practices have allowed unacceptable public health or food safety conditions."
The bar's owner, Domenico Centofanti, appeared in court on Thursday to address the health violations and establish how the conditions in Downey's can be improved. The bar, which is due to appear on a Spike TV bar makeover show later this month, must pass two inspections before the case can be closed.
Centofanti is already in trouble with the law for failure to pay back taxes. The city administration has named him as one of Philadelphia's top deadbeats owing $125,881 in business-privilege, wage, liquor and other taxes.
On August 2 this 35-year-old business man is up for sheriff sale to satisfy the $2.4 million he owes to Wells Fargo and the city. Last September he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Centofanti has also faced legal complaints from his staff. Bernardo Corona, a former employee, alleges that he worked 47 hour weeks for two months and only received $800. This is a violation of wage and overtime laws. He won a judgment against his former boss in April and received $2,502. Centofanti appealed this ruling.
Steve Renzi (30) told Philly.com "He did it to everybody in the restaurant." Renzi, a school-district teacher was a valet-parker for Downey's in 2007. "Pretty much everybody in the entire restaurant wasn't getting paid."
He said the hardest hit were the immigrants working in the kitchen who were mostly paid in cash. He claims that Centofanti would stiff them for months. The teacher said that he threatened Centofanti that he would take him to court. However Centofanti continued to say he was broke when it came to pay day.
On July 24, an episode of "Bar Rescue" featuring Downey's will air on Spike TV. The show features struggling bars in various cities around the United States.
Tim Duffy, the senior vice president of Spike, said "We were drawn to the story of Downey's itself. It rose to become a Philadelphia institution under Jack Downey. When we heard that it had fallen into disrepair and could potentially shut down forever, we wanted to help."
In May, as part of the makeover show, Downey's received a new stove, a walk-in freezer along with new chairs and signage. The show reported that the freezer they replaced was "dark, rancid" and "rotting"
However things at Downey's haven't been turned around. Philly.com received an email from a local, Bernice Sierchio (65). She said that when she visited Downey's just two weeks ago she could smell mildew.
Her mail read "Not only does the place owe taxes, it smells, has the poorest customer service around, but it does serve bugs with both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, what more could patrons or the City of Philadelphia ask for?"
"Downey's used to be a great place to go. I'd never go back there."
The owner, Centofanti, did not respond to repeated phone calls, for comment.
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