OMG! Rotisserie

OMG! Rotisserie. Photo by Ben Peters.

The Athens City-County Board of Health voted unanimously Monday to suspend the license of OMG! Rotisserie for 30 days after the business was shuttered in April when an inspection uncovered a cockroach infestation and dirty silverware preceded by a years-long pattern of other critical health violations.

The board made the decision following recommendation from The Athens City-County Health Department Director of Environmental Health Patrick McGarry who asked members to require OMG! Owner Marla Rutter to correct all previous violations, including the recurring offense of providing customers with unclean utensils, and mandate a staffer on duty to be trained in restaurant safety.

After the first 15 days, the health department will conduct an inspection to assess OMG!’s progress. If progress isn’t made within the allotted time, the health department will return to the board and request that it revoke the restaurant’s license, McGarry said.

“We don’t take this lightly, and I mean this isn’t a position that we like to be in by any means,” McGarry said. “But as you guys can see over the timeline here, we did 10 inspections in less than two years in this facility … Those are significant violations. It does make us question if the facility is capable of operating effectively.”

Holding back tears in her testimony to the board, Rutter acknowledged the violations and said they are the result of extenuating family circumstances and economic hardship triggered by the pandemic that forced her into working several part time jobs in addition to managing the restaurant just to meet rent and keep the business afloat.

“So that’s why this restaurant has went to hell,” she said.

Several board members were sympathetic to Rutter’s testimony, including member Heidi Shaw who said she has eaten at the establishment many times with her family. But they reiterated their duty was to protect the public from foodborne illness.

Member Betty Jo Parsley pointedly questioned Rutter’s judgement in keeping the business open while knowingly placing customers at risk of consuming contaminated food.

“I don’t understand how you can operate a business and know that you are putting people in jeopardy who are purchasing food from you. And at the same time our health department is trying to make you comply — and I realize you have a lot of heartache right now — but it seems disrespectful, disrespectful to your customers and disrespectful to our sanitarians who are trying to help you.”

In an effort to revitalize OMG!, Rutter said she applied for a grant through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s restaurant revitalization fund, a program to help food establishments recoup pandemic-related losses. If awarded the money, Rutter said she would quit her other jobs, devote more resources to the business and allow staffers to work additional hours — all to improve sanitation. If the grant isn’t obtained, Rutter will file for bankruptcy, she said.

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