5 On Your Side

Gumby's Owner Responds to Restaurant Being Shut Down

Posted October 9, 2007 5:41 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2007 6:51 p.m. EDT

— The owner of a Raleigh restaurant defended himself Tuesday after his eatery got a sanitation score so low a health inspector immediately shut it down.

Gumby's Pizza was closed last week after scoring a 60.5. The grade was so low it was off the official grade charts. But the owner of Gumby's said he thinks he got a raw deal.

“I feel we've been railroaded,” said Chance Hippler, owner of Gumby’s. “I don't know what the agenda was of the health department. But I know it was a travesty of justice that Gumby's Pizza was shut down."

The Wake County inspector immediately revoked the license of the Hillsborough Street restaurant after a re-inspection on Sept. 28.

The three pages of violations included potentially dangerous food temperatures, food floating in condensation and lots of equipment that needed to be repaired or replaced.

But even though Hippler wasn't there at the time, he does not agree Gumby's deserved that score. He has three problems with the inspection. The first is when it was done.

“[The inspector] came here in the middle of the of the night at midnight,” Hippler said.

His second problem was with the inspector who did the review.

“We got a new inspector [and] we get a 70 followed by a 60.5,” Hippler said.

His third issue was with the way the inspection was done. Considering what was at stake, Hippler said he feels the inspector should have called in a second inspector.

“You fire a nuclear bomb and at least you have two people to turn the key,” he said.

Frances Breedlove is in charge of Wake County restaurant inspectors. She said the whole point of off-hours inspections is that they tend to turn up problems.

“He's been inspected just like everyone else is inspected," Breedlove said. “Anytime they are preparing food or open for business, they are subject to be inspected."

Breedlove said Gumby’s grade was lower because it was a re-inspection. Restaurants lose more points for repeat violations.

“Obviously, it's a lot of violations to get a score that low," she said. "A lot of things he didn't correct on the regular inspection in June needed to be done."

Hippler said his attorney is working to stay the revocation, which could allow him to operate until he goes through the appeal process. Unless he wins that, it's doubtful Gumby's will operate anytime soon.

Once a restaurant is shut down, it has to be brought back up to current building codes before it can re-open. That would be very expensive to do because the building is so old.