A restaurant owner says he is “absolutely devastated” after receiving his first one-star cleanliness rating in 40 years.
Baba Coban of newly opened Sinar Kitchen in Sittingbourne hit out at Swale Council after his business was left out of business due to ceiling damage.
The 52-year-old from Bexleyheath opened Meze Bar in the former Amalfi Italian restaurant in January.
However, after our routine inspection the next day on 20 Jan Reporter claims to have eaten “the best lamb chops of his life” in the restaurant, and an enforcement review on 23 February, it was slapped with the second lowest cleanliness score.
Mr Coban, who has been in the restaurant business with his family since the age of 12, claims the inspector took just five minutes to look at his business.
In tears, he said: “This cleanliness rating has absolutely destroyed me.
“I have opened 21 restaurants in my entire career and I even won a national award in 2017.
“The inspector came in and just looked around for five minutes.
“The things they flagged had nothing to do with rodents, infestation, food safety or sanitation, nothing like that.
“When they arrived in January they flagged things they didn’t like, which included some water damage to the ceiling, a new sink that needed to be installed and some sealing that needed to be done around our extractor.
“When they returned, I showed them that we had done the repairs, as they said, and we still have a one-star rating.”
The inspector raised a number of concerns in the food and safety report shown to KentOnline by Mr Coban.
It read: “There was an area of damage to the ceiling above the stairs leaving the storage area below. This must be repaired.”
“There is a small gap around the extractor duct where it goes out the windows. This gap should be filled to prevent pests.”
Mr. Coban claims that the inspector has fixed all the issues raised in his inspection.
He said: “I’m not the only owner and manager here.
“I also help with the cooking, serving and prep, so I know what’s going on at every stage.
“After the inspector came in January and flagged what he didn’t like, we made repairs right away.
“When they returned, I showed them that we had made the repairs, as they said.
“I paid an extra £175 for them to come back immediately after issuing a one-star cleanliness rating, but they said it could take up to two months to do so.”
As a result of the low score, Mr. Coban has sent the report to his lawyer.
He said: “The one-star rating absolutely hurt my business.
“In a few weeks I was due to open a restaurant under the name Sinner’s Kitchen in Canterbury and Bexley Village.
“But now the name is tarnished and I’ve had to push back the opening dates altogether and open them in something new.
“The rating is not a reflection of what we do here. We showed them our ledger, we don’t have any rodents or spoiled food, nothing like that.
“My staff is trained, there are signs to keep everything clean and take care of allergies, among other things.
“I don’t understand how they could do this to anyone? I can’t believe what happened to us.
“Last weekend it was shared on Facebook and it affected the number of customers we were getting directly.
“The score is embarrassing and shameful to me.”
However, it wasn’t just problems with the restaurant’s foundation that the inspector had.
The report continued: “At the time of inspection there was a box containing seven packs of fresh quail in the walk-in chiller.
“All of them were labeled three days ago with a use by date of 17/01/2023.
“Baba advised me that they were for staff use, although they were not labeled for staff use and quail is on the menu.
“Food that has been past its use-by date is considered unfit for consumption and must be disposed of.
“At the time of my inspection, you did not have a food safety management system in place.
“You simply have a documented system that sets out all the steps you take to make sure the food you produce is safe to eat.”
However, Mr. Coban disputes the observation about the food management system.
He claims he had it with him the whole time and the inspector never asked to see his books.
Mr Coban has several other Turkish and mezze restaurants in Bexley, London and Essex.
These include the former Abbey Grill, now Luna Kitchen, in Waltham Abbey and The Istanbul Kitchen in Bexleyheath – both of which have five-star ratings.
He said: “I have nothing to worry about with regard to the hygiene and safety of my food.
“They can come here any time, any day, they can come every day to see if they want.
“We’ve never had a formal complaint from our customers, but if there have been occasions when people have been unhappy because of service time and things like that, I give people their food for free.
“Their happiness over food is more important to me than money.
“At my Bexleyheath restaurant we are doing £10,000 a day, £60-70,000 a week and last year we made £30,000 on Mother’s Day alone.
“I’m good at what I do but that inspector has completely destroyed me.
“They have tarnished my image. Other restaurant owners used to come to me for help but now they are not doing that.
“Anyone from the council and even our customers can ask to come and take a look inside our kitchens and behind the scenes at any time.
“We’ll show you everything.”
A council spokesman confirmed that a further enforcement review at the restaurant is due for early next week.
He also said that a re-score inspection will be done by May 6 to ensure compliance during a reasonable period.
The spokesperson said: “The scores have been put together following a detailed and comprehensive inspection by officers, and are a snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection.
“It is the responsibility of the business to always comply with the Food Sanitation Law.
“Inspect food handling, how food is stored, how food is prepared, cleanliness of facilities and how food safety is managed.
“We do not issue reports where cases are still under review by the authorities, and we will continue to work closely with the food business to ensure that they implement the identified requirements within the agreed timeframe.
“As is the case with any food business in the borough, any re-scoring must be carried out in line with the Food Standards Agency brand standard for the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.”