Tinseltown brings in big guns, aces health inspection

Tue, 06/20/2006 - 5:36pm
By: Ben Nelms

‘We got a 98’

It was down to the wire, but Tinseltown scored big. A June 15 health and sanitation inspection by Fayette County Health Department resulted in a score of 98 out of a possible 100 for the theater.

The months-long concern over rodent feces and urine and other violations at the theater appears to have ended.

Outside firms hired to handle the problems did so just before a city-imposed deadline that might have revoked Tinseltown’s business license.

Tinseltown’s three prior health inspections resulted in scores of 83 on April 4, 54 on March 29 and 50 on March 23.

State-certified sanitarian and Synergein Environmental Consulting Associates President Travis Sheppard answered questions after the June 15 inspection was completed. He provided an explanation of the work done since June 9 by his firm and other companies to help get things back on track.

Citing what he called “exaggerated” press reports, Sheppard pronounced the theater’s problems resolved, adding that a total of four mice had been found.

“On Friday of last week the Cinemark corporate office asked me to assist them with meeting the expectations of the Health Department here. So we worked pretty much non-stop since then. We found some problems. We feel some of the problems, especially after reading the press reports, some of the press reports, to me, seemed exaggerated. But the problems they had, we addressed them and worked hand in hand with the Health Department. This is a safe place to eat. They want everyone to come back and build their clientele back up again.”

“We started out by doing an entire inspection of the building,” Sheppard continued. “We did find some mice. I know some of the reports said rats. We didn’t find any rats. We didn’t find any rat droppings. No evidence of rats in the building. We found some small mice. The droppings were primarily in non-food prep areas. We did an aggressive trapping program and over the course of four days, in a building this size, we only trapped four mice. As a matter of fact, after going through the building with a fine-toothed comb, we also sub-contracted a firm in Atlanta that provides training.”

Sheppard added, “We provided food service training to 87 of the employees. We also hired a critical cleaning company. They came in and injected cleaning products into the walls. In other words, when you walk in there you see a countertop and you see food prep areas. We didn’t find the droppings in those areas. We actually found them in the interstitial spaces between the counters. This critical cleaning company actually came in and cleaned these areas. They took equipment, they took apart walls. They even replaced ceilings in some areas.”

Cinemark Vice President for Marketing and Communications Terrell Falk was asked if hiring outside firms to resolve the theater’s problems coincided with a letter from Fayetteville City Manager Joe Morton, giving the theater until June 15 to clean up its act or face a possible revocation of its business license.

“We hired the outside firm because we recognized we had a problem and we needed more expertise than we had to solve that problem. So that’s why we hired the outside firm. We recognized that there is a problem. There is not a coincidence in that we had all these inspections, we have the Health Department saying there is an issue. We wanted to solve that issue,” said Falk.

“When you talk about mice, basically the first problem was in March, late March,” Falk said. “So we have been looking at that and have been addressing the issues since then. The last inspection that we had we received an 83. During that and during spot checks there were some problems found and we were addressing those as we could. And that’s why we finally came to the conclusion that the best way to resolve it was to go outside and hire an expert in this field. Hopefully, this expert and the training and the guidance that this company will give us will allow us to resolve this once and for all.”

Falk said she hoped no one would lose their job over the situation, adding that all employees had already undergone extensive training.

While Tinseltown’s score showed a dramatic improvement and the words of Sheppard and Falk were reassuring, those words were not in sync with other statements and public records.

Though Sheppard referenced having “only trapped four mice,” his word to Fayette County Environmental Health Manager Rick Fehr was that in the four days of trapping he had seen a dramatic reduction in the number of mice they were catching, according to Fehr.

In addition, Sheppard’s reference to rodent droppings being found only in the small spaces between counters is contrary to the photographic evidence. Though Sheppard might not have known, Health Department staff only one week earlier had taken photographs of rodent feces in open floor space inside the theater.

In her statement that the first problem with mice occurred in late March, Falk did not mention, or perhaps was unaware, that Fayette Health Department documented a movie patron’s complaint on July 18, 2005 citing “rats” in the theaters. Another complaint by a moviegoer stated that on Sept. 11, 2005 he saw a rodent inside the bag of popcorn he had placed on the floor inside the theater while attending a movie.

Referencing the June 15 score of 98 out of 100, the out-of-compliance item listed on the Friday inspection, the need to replace a lid on a trash can, is minor, said District 4 Public Information Officer Hayla Hall.

Contractors have been hired to address already-cited repair items and replace broken equipment, she said. Tinseltown now will be put on a regular rotation for inspections sometime in the next six to eight months.

After the June 15 statements, Sheppard explained how the rodents were able to gain access to the building and the steps taken to prohibit that access.

“We brought in a team of people who were able to identify the source of the rodents and what was attracting them and how they were getting in the building,” Sheppard said. “We found out how they were getting in and found their water and food sources. When you cut off the food, the water and the access, you basically don’t have the problem any more. The source was the compactor behind the building, all the coke syrup and some debris was attracting them from the woods behind the theater. We found the entry point and we used special equipment to track them. We basically sealed off all the entry points.”

Sheppard went on to explain that rodent feces is not uncommon in businesses or in residences.

“I could go into any of your homes and find mouse droppings with the equipment that we’re using,” he said. “We’re using UV light that can spot the urine where the human eye can’t. We’re using fiber optics scopes to run behind the walls. There is hardly a building you can go in and not find a mouse.”

Continuing his comments, Sheppard held out high expectations for the beleaguered theater.

“They have retained our company and the training company and another company that has registered and certified as a food inspector,” he said. “And they’ve started an ongoing training program. If their employees don’t pass the test, they don’t work here. There is a test given before they can stand behind the counter and they have implemented many programs. I’d be surprised if there was ever any trouble here again.”

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fancypants's picture
Submitted by fancypants on Thu, 06/22/2006 - 8:13am.

Tinseltown got themselves their own "spin doctor" and look, he is even wearing a pretty white coat!

All Smiles's picture
Submitted by All Smiles on Thu, 06/22/2006 - 5:53am.

I'm with you cowtipn!! It's hard to image they've got it all cleaned up! All of the lazy workers which don't clean up properly / pick up spilled food, ect. still work there. They'll feed the rats that escaped the "clean up". Soon reproduction will be back underway. I don't care if they pass the next 50 inspections! The mental image placed in my mind from all the past failed inspections will NEVER go away. I'm gone for good. Two weeks ago, my family and I drove over to Newnan to watch a movie. The theater over by BJ's is beautiful. Also, the staff doesn't appear to be lazy, gheto, houcha momma type often seeing working at Tinseltown. My dollars will be spent in Newnan from now.

cowtipn's picture
Submitted by cowtipn on Wed, 06/21/2006 - 1:33pm.

...that this problem was discovered in March at the beginning of the infestation. The gestation period for a rat is about 21 days, (3 weeks for those who think Fecaltown is safe now). Assuming we began with 2 rats, and the average litter is 9, that brings us to 38 rats. Adulthood is reached in 13 weeks so we now have the first batch able to reproduce and should be expecting 90 rats to be born next week. That's a potential for 128 rats in 13 weeks. They find 4 and declare victory??? Sure, it's safe. Better get there quick before all the good seats are taken!

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Tue, 06/20/2006 - 8:42pm.

I have a question for you sir. Were you able to keep a straight face while taking that picture? The only thing the picture was lacking was the Chamber of Commerce hacks trying to weasel themselves into the picture as if it were a ribbon cutting ceremony.

How hokey was that setup. Heck, I'd bet if Bill Clinton would have paid Paula Jones enough she would have certified Willy as a faithful and loving husband.

Congrats on you "98" Fecaltown. I know that mean ole Fayette County Health Department just singled you out just to pick on you guys. Now what I really want to know is if they got rid of the street rats hanging outside and around the theater.

abeautifulday4us's picture
Submitted by abeautifulday4us on Tue, 06/20/2006 - 7:43pm.

Wow…Dr. Sheppard. Just another example of a well-paid, dressed-for-success hired gun who will say anything for a buck for Cinemark.

To the extent that there is any disagreement, I agree with everything Rick Fehr says.
I have no more confidence in Cinemark than I do in Lynn Westmoreland’s scholasticism.

The key problem with Tinseltown is not the kitchen. “What” you say ??? When everyone heard about the health problems they assumed it was kitchen. “What kitchen? It’s a movie theatre? They don’t cook hardly anything except hot dogs and nachos.”

The problems--- get scared folks, get real scared---- are in the theatres. They don’t clean them. There is a tremendous quantity of food products--- cokes, popcorn, candy, cheese nachos—that get dumped on the floor and never get cleaned up. That is the central source of food supply for vermin. And you thought only the Longbranch had rats.

So, while Doctor Ripoff in the white coat claims victory it is only because they put out poison around the kitchen area. The rats still feast in the theatres.

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