Mitchell’s Fish Market under investigation after failing inspection, refusing to close

Mitchell’s Fish Market under investigation after failing inspection, refusing to close (WKRC)

NEWPORT, Ky. (WKRC) - The managers of Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee are under criminal investigation after refusing a Health Department order to close.

For a few days last week, the restaurant operated without hot water. An anonymous call to the Health Department on Friday prompted an unscheduled inspection.

That unscheduled inspection led to the restaurant being closed last weekend.

They didn't close when they were first ordered to close, but they finally locked the doors under threat of being arrested.

When the health inspector arrived at Mitchell’s about 2:45 p.m. Friday afternoon, he confirmed there was no hot water. His inspection report shows he also found 17 violations. Seven of them were what they call "criticals".

The restaurant that had scored 81 and 100 on two previous inspections scored a 54.

“Once you get below 60, that's immediate closure, because there are enough issues going on that we have concerns for public health,” said Steve Divine of the NKY Health Department.

So, the inspector suspended Mitchell’s food service permit and expected them to close.

“They were given the inspection and the suspension of permit and yet they did not close immediately,” said Divine.

The inspector left for a few minutes and came back to find the “closed” notice he'd posted on the door was covered by a Mitchell’s menu. He contacted County Attorney Steve Franzen. They got everyone on speakerphone and Franzen informed them they were breaking the law and Newport Police were on the way.

“We told them our first arrest is going to be the manager on duty. If you continue to ignore us we're going to arrest the assistant manager on duty, whoever else is keeping that establishment open until those doors are actually locked and shut,” said Campbell County Attorney Steve Franzen.

Around 7:30 p.m., Mitchell's closed and asked patrons to leave. No one was arrested. Franzen says he was told local management was on the phone with corporate management and they were calling the shots. The investigation is ongoing.

“If we find out that that's what the ownership is telling the manager on the floor, that's what we're going after, the company,” said Franzen.

The restaurant was re-inspected on Monday and scored an 81 and opened for lunch.

Both the health department and the county attorney say they have never seen a situation like this where the restaurant refused to close.

They estimate about 100 people ate at Mitchell’s between the time it was ordered closed and actually closed.

The chief operating officer for Mitchell’s parent company issued a statement about Friday’s episode.

“To ensure food safety, we ceased operations after learning that parts were unavailable for our rooftop water heater,” he said. “The Northern Kentucky Health Department gave us clearance to reopen upon the repair of our water heater for lunch on Monday."

He also thanked customers for their patience.

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