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Jeff Wiehe | The Journal Gazette
The health department has begun using bright signs to post on doors of restaurants closed due to health violations.

New signs bringing attention to closures

Heath department says shutting down eateries not unusual

– The closures of two Asian restaurants due to health violations were splashed across local television newscasts this week.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a spike in the number of local eateries that are having problems, health department officials cautioned.

Instead, it’s new signage the health department is using to show a restaurant is closed that’s grabbing people’s attention.

Beginning in November, the health department began placing bright-colored signs on restaurants that it said needed to be shut down due to health violations.

This week, the Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet and the Koto Japanese Steakhouse both had those signs posted on the front doors.

“I would say these got a lot of attention, but it is not unusual for a restaurant to close,” said John Silcox, spokesman for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Health department.

And while those restaurants were not the only two to have ever been ordered to close by the health department, “people started to see those signs,” Silcox continued.

Both signs indicated the restaurants were closed due to cockroach problems.

Health department officials inspected both restaurants after receiving complaints from diners, Silcox said.

In the case of the Hibachi Grill at 5507 Coldwater Road, a first inspection turned up nothing that warranted a closure. An inspection a week later, though, did, Silcox said.

When ordered to close, health department officials give the restaurant owners a list of things they need to do to reopen. This can take a day or two or maybe a week or longer, depending on what needs to be done, Silcox said.

In the case of the Hibachi Grill, it was re-opened two days after being closed, Silcox said.

The Koto’s troubles began Tuesday. A customer who ate there that day complained to health officials of seeing three live cockroaches in the restaurant, according to a health department report.

One of those cockroaches scampered in front of the customer’s plate, the report said.

The Koto was inspected Thursday, according to a health department report, during which live cockroaches were found.

Friday afternoon the restaurant was closed, Silcox said.

Up went a bright-reddish sign on the restaurant’s front door with the words “closed” and “live cockroaches.”

Under that sign though was a much more optimistic one with a message to reassure customers.

That sign said the restaurant would be reopened by Christmas.