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Cockroach Infestation Shuts Down Café del Soul, May Lee's and Starbucks

The county health inspector temporarily closed the three restaurants in the 247 Shoreline Highway shopping plaza until they're successfully exterminated.

Café del Soul in Tam Junction self-reported a German cockroach infestation late last week and county health officials have shut the restaurant down temporarily, along with neighboring May Lee’s Chinese Cuisine and Starbucks, to allow exterminators to deal with the infestation.

David Smail, health inspector supervisor at Marin County Environmental Health Services, visited the 247 Shoreline Highway shopping plaza for more than 2 hours Tuesday afternoon. Starbucks and May Lee's were all up to code, but he saw around 10 cockroaches caught in traps at Café del Soul.

While Smail didn’t find any cockroaches at May Lee’s, which he said had a pest control treatment either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, he did find “conditions that are cause for concern because of sanitation, or lack thereof.”

Cockroaches at a food facility is a common problem, and inadequate cleanliness is usually the cause, Smail said. Cockroaches themselves aren’t dangerous, but they’re considered a public health concern because “they move through medium that may cause bacteria and track that into food.”

“What we’re talking about here is food poisoning,” he said. “And vermin infestation can cause food poisoning.”

When cockroaches are treated they typically travel through the walls and move back and forth between locations, so it’s probably not a coincidence that the problem affects both Café del Soul and Starbucks, which are on either side of May Lee’s, Small said.

The person who answered the phone at May Lee’s on Tuesday afternoon hung up when asked about the situation.

Café del Soul noticed the bugs back in May, and has been working with the company Terminix for the past five months to have them exterminated. Resturant manager Sandro De Oliveira said they’ve been frustrated by the lack of response from other businesses and the plaza owner Charlie Elquare, and are being up front with customers.

They’ve posted notices around the restaurant and on their website, and last Friday notified Marin County Environmental Health Services.

“They were forthcoming, saying they had a problem,” Smail said. “They pointed to a complex wide problem that probably needs to be addressed by more than the usual methods.”

Because cockroaches are so efficient at moving between adjacent walls, the businesses will most likely remain closed until Smail is sure all three are bug-free.

“There needs to be a coordinated response to this,” he said.

The timeframe for exterminating cockroaches varies.

“They need to do whatever they need to do to get it operating again,” he said. “Sometimes it happens very quickly, sometimes it drags a bit.”

Marin County Environmental Health Services also charges $167 per hour for recovery costs, which include time spent doing inspections, filling out paperwork, communicating via phone or email, and other work that goes into resolving the case.  

Once they are able to reopen, Smail said the health department will be monitoring the restaurants in the upcoming months to make sure the cockroaches don’t return.

“We’re not going to just let this drop,” he said. “We’ll be looking in there periodically.”

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RJ November 01, 2012 at 05:50 PM
According to Cafe del Soul's Facebook page, the entire building has now been treated and the roach problem abated. They were approved to reopen and did so today. It would be nice to see a follow up story on this with the current information.
Rico November 01, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I hope that the bug spray evaporates quickly, especially in an organic food restaurant. I think I wait a little longer than one day before eating there. Did they tent all the buildings ?
Tripp Knightly November 02, 2012 at 03:12 AM
No way they rectified this quickly. May Lee's never struck me as a very clean place but what do you expect they're authentic. Cheap food, never got sick.

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