Inspectors $lap bagel shop for seeds
- Last Updated: 2:11 PM, May 8, 2012
- Posted: 2:27 AM, May 7, 2012
Any way you slice it, this is one seedy dispute.
A Health Department inspector bizarrely slapped a Brooklyn bagel shop with $1,650 in fines — because sesame and poppy seeds fell to the floor while the bagels were being made during working hours.
The owner of B&B Empire Bagel Cafe — who appealed the violations and lost at two separate hearings — says the inspectors must have holes in their heads.
How is he supposed to make seeded bagels without some of the tiny goods spilling onto the ground?
“It is impossible to clean up after each and every bagel,” declared Alex Gormakh, 59, who manages the Clinton Sreet. shop. “It is impossible. It is a process.”
To demonstrate, Gormakh placed two poppy and sesame bagels on a table near his $60,000 wood-burning oven, where they are baked “Montreal style” — smaller and chewier than their New York cousins.
“Look,” explained Gormakh, “a few seeds are always going to be dropped when you are dipping the bagel in the seeds. They don’t all stick like glue.”
“Now imagine the seeds from 100 bagels. Any place where bagels are produced will have these problems.”
Still, city regulators were unsympathetic.
A Health Department spokeswoman said the bagel shop was cited on Oct. 23, 2011, for “a heavy accumulation of seeds in the same area that many mouse droppings were found.”
No mice were detected in an earlier inspection on Aug. 1, 2011, and none were found in the latest inspection on April 5, when B&B was awarded the highest cleanliness grade of “A.”
Now, Gormakh and his son, Max, 34, have invested close to $900,000 in larger stainless steel preparation tables — in hopes of containing seed fallout — and an expensive water-filter vacuum to suck up the seeds from the floor.
“It is still not profitable, but it is close,” said Gormakh, who moved his family here from Russia in 1995 and opened his store last June.
The money to settle the violations “would be better spent on further developing the restaurant,” he argued.
Gormakh appears resigned to the higher cost of doing business in this city.
“If you want to work you have to pay,” he concluded. “In Russia, they call it corruption. Here they call it something else. Either way, you have to pay.”