By Nuoya Zhou
Tong Dynasty, the only Chinese food restaurant in downtown Lexington, has temporarily closed.
The owner, Hoi Tong, is also selling the adjacent T Bar building, listed at $875,000.
Speaking in Mandarin from his home in Covington, Tong said he is recovering from a broken leg. He fell during the summer and had to rest at home, he said.
He said he would not have the time and vigor to manage the bar in the future. If he couldn’t sell the T Bar building before the restaurant reopens around October, Tong said he would plan something else.
It’s not the first time that the restaurant shut down.
Last year, Tong voluntarily closed the place for a week after City Manager Noah Simon filed a complaint with the Lexington office of the state Department of Health on May 18.
The complaint reported that some food items were left at room temperature and uncovered. For example, non-refrigerated raw chicken appeared to have been sitting on a table overnight. Dead cockroaches were spotted as well.
Simon reported that this was the filthiest place that he had seen.
Environmental Health Specialist Kenneth Hearst from the Department of Health went there the day after the complaint was filed and found 27 critical violations.
“The facility is not being cleaned very well,” Hearst wrote in his inspection report. “Food containers, walls, areas around the dish machine and 3-bay sink are all significantly soiled. Dead cockroaches were observed in two locations. The employee is not washing his hands when required. A container of cooked rice sat out all night.”
All of the critical violations were corrected about a week after Tong agreed to close for cleaning.
The hygienic conditions did not last long.
Within a month, on June 22, another routine inspection found new problems.
“The thawing chicken was dripping liquid onto the container that stores dry goods,” wrote Environmental Health Specialist Eric Royer. “This facility appears to continue to operate with critical issues that have potential for starting or causing health risks.”
Tong tried to put all this in perspective. “Which restaurant has a perfect performance in health inspection? It’s impossible,” he said,” speaking in Chinese. “(The Health Department) has never fined me or closed my restaurant.”
Hearst agreed with that last part of this statement. He said that the negative inspection records were never the reasons for Tong’s closure, not even this time.
The monthly Rockbridge Advocate publishes a yearly report, starting on the front page, citing the health violation records among all eateries within 12 months. Among 163 local eateries, 100 of them did not have any violations.
In the Advocate’s latest report in November, Tong Dynasty received more complaints and violations than any other local restaurants last year.
“The record speaks for itself,” Hearst said. “They are definitely not one of the best operators.”
But Tong said his restaurant in Lexington is making progress and improving.
Meanwhile, he said he plans to travel to Nanjing, China at the end of September to receive further medical treatment.