LAKELAND, Florida - Gabriel Brana says he's no stranger to Perry's BBQ inside the food court at Lakeland Square Mall.
"We go there every Sunday or every other Sunday," said Brana. "They know me there."
But the father of three said two weeks ago he and his family were shocked to find the restaurant closed following a temporary emergency closure.
"Had a wall in front of it, so I really didn't know what was going on," said Brana.
Turns out a state inspector documented 12 violations, four considered high priority on the state's April 19 inspection. Among the issues, food uncovered in the walk-in cooler, an employee not properly washing their hands, and rodent activity, with 12 fresh droppings found. The inspector notated it was his suspicion the rodents were living in the walls and ceiling.
"It really does concern me," said Brana. "There are viruses and bacteria that mice and rodents carry around, and that's the last thing I want to get, or anyone in my family to get: food poisoning."
So we paid Perry's BBQ a visit just a week after the state allowed the restaurant to reopen. After making a few phone calls, the on-duty manager agreed to take us into the kitchen.
Inside, we found some of the same issues: food and sauces stored uncovered, both dead and live insects on the kitchen floor and front counter, and even rodent droppings in the rear of the kitchen.
"I think that's maybe the sauce ... the sauce," said the manager John.
And while the manager said the droppings looked more like dried up sauce, a state certified pest control specialist confirmed our findings as Norway rat droppings.
"I think we're finished," said the manager once we pointed out the droppings.
From there we were escorted out of the kitchen. The manager eventually refused to answer any more questions.
"Okay, I don't want to talk too much," said the manager.
Customers like Brana say they're extremely disappointed.
"I'm speechless," said Brana. "I almost get nauseous to my stomach."
UPDATE: Wednesday night 10 News was invited back to Perry's BBQ for a second inspection. We found a spotless kitchen without a single visable violation and no sign of rodent droppings.
The owner of Perry's sent us this written statement:
"We are dedicated to keeping our restaurant clean and we apologize for this unfortunate incident. We have fully complied with the inspection and we reopened the next day. We have new procedures in place to ensure that this will never happen again. We apologize for any inconveniences to our customers."
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