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    Photo taken Thursday, July 11 following the health inspection and the revoking of McDonald’s food service permit. Ashley Kairis • Clay County Progress

Local McDonald’s shut down

Failing inspection grade results in four-day restaurant closure
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 The golden arches of Hayesville did not shine too brightly in their Thursday, July 11 health inspection. Amongst the other 20 Clay County restaurants with scores 91 and above, McDonald’s received a score of 65 in the quarterly report of restaurant inspections. 

Immediately following the calculation of the score, the restaurant’s food service permit was revoked, forcing them to shut down until they could pass in a follow-up visit. The restaurant re-opened Monday, July 15 when they were re-issued a permit, according to Clay County Environmental Health Supervisor Joe Jack Sellers. 

Speaking to the restaurant’s mark, Sellers said, “I think that’s the only one I’ve seen receive below a 70 in Clay County.” Sellers has served in local government for nearly 23 years. 

Carrying out the Thursday inspection was his coworker, Environmental Health Specialist Amber Jones. According to the inspection report, McDonald’s was cited for 25 different violations, resulting in the 65 score. This compares to their prior Feb. 28 inspection with 14 violations and a score of 95. 

The violations cited in the Thursday inspection included: 

• Open boxes of raw beef patties stored directly on top of a tray of English muffins. 

• Excessive flies. 

• Excessive foul odor throughout establishment. 

• Excessive black buildup debris in sinks. 

• Loose trash/debris/grease on ground in refuse area. 

• Chicken nugget containers stored on floor next to grease waste bin with damp and dirty mop head stored directly on box. 

• Three instances of hazardous food temperatures.

• Reuse of a bagel that had been returned by customer in order to add cheese.

• Food boxes stored directly on the floor throughout the kitchen.

• Mold residue in large ice bin at front service window.

• Hair visible in prep drawer of reach-in unit that holds raw burger patties.

• Various other infractions for employee cleanliness, lack of hair restraints and glove usage. 

In a Wednesday interview, owner of the Hayesville McDonald’s Susan Nichols offered a few comments. 

“I’m very disappointed, I’m embarrassed. It’s not how I want to run a business and we have a full staff and we’re all cringing — it’s bad,” said Nichols. She also said the time spent closed not only allowed for extensive cleaning, but also super intensive training.

Nichols also suggested that several changes in procedures and standards related to hand-washing, glove usage and cold holding temperatures implemented by the health department may have contributed in part to their lower than usual score. 

A statement published on the Hayesville McDonald’s website posted near midnight on July 14 said, “This experience has been an opportunity for growth as we are constantly learning ways in which we can improve upon our customers’ experience. During our closure, we engaged in rigorous training for our staff and have made major changes in regards to the problem areas disclosed in our inspection. The health and safety of our customers remains our number one priority along with providing fast, accurate, friendly service at a clean and sanitary restaurant.”

Clay County Health Department Director Stephanie Johnson commented on the process of working with the McDonald’s crew to address the violations. 

“The way that North Carolina law reads is they have to have the place pretty much in brand new opening condition and from what I understand that happened and that’s why they were able to reopen,” said Johnson. 

According to Nichols, 500 man hours went into the cleaning process. “It is impressive how clean it is,” she said. 

“I think the company was really great in working with us and we were able to sit down quite a bit actually and go over with the management what we needed to do and they were more than willing and anxious to make it happen and we were really pleased,” said Johnson 

The official statement on the situation from the heath department is: “As the health department, we are here to promote the health and safety of all citizens and follow the laws set forth by the State of North Carolina. The establishment in question has been cooperative, and we have been working together to ensure all State laws and standards are in compliance.” 

“I’m very sorry that all this has happened,” said Nichols. “We had things wrong and we have addressed it. The last thing I want is anyone getting sick and the last thing I want is bad community relations.”

By Ashley Kairis Staff writer

Clay County Progress

Mailing Address: PO Box 483, Hayesville, NC 28904
Physical Address: 43 Main Street, Hayesville, NC 28904
Phone: 828-389-8431
Fax: 828-389-9997