CLEARWATER, Florida - Country Super Buffet on East Bay Drive is popular among loyal customers.
"It's clean, the food is hot, it's well prepared," said customer Bill Aloisio.
Michael Sawyer and his family were fans of the restaurant too.
"It appears clean when you walk in," said Sawyer, who says his opinion quickly changed when his wife spotted a problem on the sushi buffet station.
"As I looked down, she was pointing and live cockroaches were crawling on top, and on the plates, and on top of the sushi that was in the area."
Horrified, Sawyer says he brought the insects to the attention of restaurant staff.
"He went and picked the roaches up off the food and threw it on the floor and didn't remove the food. None of the plates, and there were several of the plates that had the live cockroaches on them," said Sawyer.
The family contacted the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the state agency that regulates restaurant safety. On August 9, a state inspector went in documenting 31 violations, 19 considered critical.
Among the problems: mold in the ice machine, a dirty meat grinder, live flies, and over 65 roaches spotted running around on a meat slicer, inside the cabinets of the dessert buffet, and all over the sushi area, forcing a 1-day emergency closure.
We stopped in to ask about the issues, but were told the restaurant was never shut down. When we asked if someone would be willing to take us back and show us in the kitchen, the manager told us the boss was not available.
"If they're not letting you all in, there must be something wrong still," said one disturbed customer.
Around back, we spotted the kitchen door wide open, a perfect way for bugs to get inside. As for the Sawyer family, even they were surprised to hear how many violations state inspectors found.
"Nauseating...the thought of roaches on your food and how many people ate there," said Sawyer. "That bothers me a lot, and I hope it bothers a whole lot of other people too."
View Country Super Buffet'sfull inspection history.