ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Since 1968, Big Tim's has been known for some of the best BBQ in all of St. Petersburg.
"It's chopped pork, it's ribs, sweet potato pies, coleslaw, the whole nine yards," said former customer Rodman Goddard.
But on August 21 a state inspector ordered an emergency closure documenting 19 violations, four high priority, including cups and to-go containers on the floor and temperature violations in the walk-in cooler with the raw pork. There were also live roaches behind the pork chopping station, too many roaches to count under main prep table and cutting board, and rodent droppings all throughout the kitchen and in a holding area with beans and sauce.
The inspector also documented no soap or paper towels at a kitchen hand sink and no proof of the state-required employee training.
"I'd be worried about the roaches getting in my food," said another customer. "I wouldn't eat there if I knew that before I got inside the building."
So Thursday night we stopped in to find out what was going on inside the south St. Pete kitchen. When we walked inside, an unidentified employee told us we were not welcome in the kitchen.
"No, there's no need to show you my kitchen. I'm here, I'm open, I'm serving food."
When we explained we had concerns after state records showed a number of people getting sick, the employee said, "I have no clue about that. If anything was a problem it's not a problem anymore."
But state records show Big Tim's BBQ has not met inspection standards on any of their past seven inspections, racking up 96 violations since mid-June. 10 News also learned the restaurant was the subject of a health department investigation into a food-borne illness outbreak back in June.
"Our epidemiology staff investigated and what they found were several cases of probable salmonella," said Department of Health spokeswoman Maggie Hall. "Three were later confirmed by the state lab."
Despite all that, Big Tim's still refused to provide us any proof things had been cleaned up in the kitchen.
"It's nothing against you," the employee said. "You're doing your job ... but I have nothing to provide for you."
Big Tim's BBQ was allowed to reopen the following day after their emergency closure despite state records showing they did not officially meet inspection standards.
Customers who got sick back in June included a child who was taken to All Children's Hospital, according to state records. The affected customers all reported eating similar meals from Big Tim's BBQ.
Outrageous Restaurant Red Alert reports:
Band Aid Soup: Customer served soup - with a band aid in it!
Terrible 10: 10 Tampa Bay restaurants with the WORST critical violations
Ceiling Roaches: McDonalds cited when roach falls from ceiling onto diner's food
Finger in salad: Pizza customer claims there was a fingertip in his salad
Baked Roaches: Roaches found baked into Pizza Supreme
More Restaurant Red Alert Reports:
Classic Homestyle Buffet, Tampa 1/11/12
Frank's Family Restaurant, Hernando 1/18/12
Big Easy Cajun, Brandon TownCenter 1/25/12
CiCi's Pizza, Kenneth City 2/1/12
China Express, Brandon 2/8/12
Daiquiri Deck, Maderia Beach 2/15/12
Athenian Garden, Tyrone Area, St. Pete 2/22/12
Bob Evans (Ulmerton Road), Pho 97 (Pinellas Park), Kobe Japanese Steak House (New Tampa) 2/29/12
China Jade, Carrollwood, 3/7/12
Nicki's West 59th (Bradenton), Top's China Buffet (Brandon), 400 Beach (St. Petersburg) 3/14/12
Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille (Ybor City) 3/21/12
Sandy's Restaurant, Indian Rocks Beach 3/28/12