Barney Greengrass was closed by the Health Department last Thursday, the day after the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, when inspectors found mouse droppings, roaches and other violations in the historic restaurant and appetizing store on Amsterdam between 86th and 87th Streets. After the West Side Rag wrote about the closure in openings and closings, it was covered by the Post, the Times, and several TV news stations.
One customer told the Times he was surprised that Barney Greengrass had been so sloppy, but others were more forgiving. “We had our break-fast from him this year as we have had for however many years, and we all survived,” customer Sandy Zenker said. “We’re all fine.”
Never before in the 111-year history of the store has it been shuttered by the Health Department. Owner Gary Greengrass called it being “scarlet lettered.” He declined to comment on Monday, but on Thursday he was distraught and frustrated. He kept starting to speak, then holding his tongue; in part, because he’s a nice guy, in part, because he was afraid to raise the ire of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
He had an explanation for why Barney Greengrass failed the Health Department inspection. He likened the two days before Yom Kippur — when he is preparing and delivering hundreds and hundreds of break-fast meals across the neighborhood, city, and country — to a hurricane, and said you have to clean up after a hurricane. There was no time, he insisted. The inspectors showed up — two of them — at nine o’clock in the morning, the day after the place had been closed for the holiday.
Still, some of the violations the health department reported seem longer term, like evidence of mice and sightings of roaches. The restaurant had an A grade, but it had recorded similar violations back in June. Here is the full statement sent to WSR by the Health Department:
“The Health Department conducted a routine inspection of Barney Greengrass and observed food not held at the correct temperature; close to 300 mouse droppings, including droppings in the kitchen and food storage areas; live roaches in the kitchen; conditions conducive to pests and other food safety concerns. The Department closed the establishment as a temporary measure to protect public health and will authorize reopening once Barney Greengrass has corrected the issues and passed a reopening inspection.”
The restaurant is expected to stay closed through Wednesday, according to a message on the answering machine.