Towards the end of Monday’s thread about the troubles facing Vox Pop, the cafe and neighborhood gathering place at 1022 Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, the woman overseeing the place now responded to a number of aspects of the story. We’ve cut-and-pasted her lengthy comment below, but one of the things she addresses is the Department of Health fines that are at the root of the cafe’s inability to serve food or drinks:
The vision of the founders, four and a half years ago, was of a political coffee shop franchise, it’s goal being to expand rapidly. Last spring, in an effort to expand, the board at that time decided to open a second Vox Pop in the Lower East Side. The second store did not have adequate start-up cash and dragged Vox Pop #1 on Cortelyou Rd., deep into the red over the past year. The decision was made to close the second Vox Pop location. One of the debts that was left unpaid was to the Department of Health, which refused to renew our permit and closed us down almost a month ago. Since then, the old Board of Directors and the Officers of the Corporation have all resigned.
In a second comment, she goes on to describe what management has done to remedy the DOH complaints. Read on.
The vision of the founders, four and a half years ago, was of a political coffee shop franchise, it’s goal being to expand rapidly. Last spring, in an effort to expand, the board at that time decided to open a second Vox Pop in the Lower East Side. The second store did not have adequate start-up cash and dragged Vox Pop #1 on Cortelyou Rd., deep into the red over the past year. The decision was made to close the second Vox Pop location.
One of the debts that was left unpaid was to the Department of Health, which refused to renew our permit and closed us down almost a month ago. Since then, the old Board of Directors and the Officers of the Corporation have all resigned.
Where We Are Going
We restructured the Corporation and elected a new five person Board made up of local community members and Vox Pop employees. I have been named President of the Corporation and CEO. I do come from a non-profit background and what struck me the most about Vox Pop was the service it provides to the community while remaining a for profit organization. By working under this for-profit collective model, Vox Pop can and will become a self sustaining entity with the possibility of growth in the future.
The Board of Directors is chaired by Holley Anderson and has been charged with assuring that all shareholders interests are being met. Lines of communication have been open utilizing a shareholder listserv to address all ongoing issues at Vox Pop. Shareholders are welcome to have as much input as they desire.
Our goal is to be as transparent as possible moving forward so that all shareholders feel comfortable and confident in their ownership.
We have an operating budget for the next year which includes breaking even and managing our debt. Before the company will discuss expansion again, we have all agreed to have one fabulously successful coffee shop first.
Publish Yourself has remained open continuously and has remained a self-sustaining component of Vox Pop.
Although we cannot currently serve any food or drinks without a permit, we have been keeping the place open as a community space during the afternoons and evenings. We are the busiest closed cafÃ© you have ever seen.
If you would like to find out how you could help Vox Pop, and make an investment in the future of this community, please contact Debi Ryan at email@example.com or come to our upcoming Save Vox Pop
Posted by: Debi Ryan at March 17, 2009 5:45 AM
Regarding the DOH violations that someone chose to post in part on this site, here are the violations in their entirety and the steps taken to address them. While I can’t speak to past issues or questions of responsibility since I have just recently arrived and assumed management, here are the corrective actions that have taken place in the space to ensure that there will be no future violations.
In addition, the entire space has been cleaned and sanitized from top to bottom and procedures have been put in place to ensure ongoing daily maintenance.
> Non-food contact surface improperly constructed. Unacceptable material used.
> Non-food contact surface or equipment improperly maintained.
This violation refers to table that held the espresso machine that was made of wood. This cabinet has been removed and replaced by a restaurant grade stainless steel table. This solution meets and exceeds DOH code.
> Accurate thermometer not provided in refrigerated or hot holding equipment.
Every refrigeration unit on site now has at least 2 thermometers, one at the coldest and one at the warmest section of the unit. This meets and exceeds DOH code.
> Lighting inadequate. Bulb not shielded or shatterproof.
Cover over light bulb in downstairs refrigerator was missing. This light cover has been replaced.
> Plumbing not properly installed or maintained; anti-siphonage or backflow prevention device not provided where required; equipment or floor not properly drained; sewage disposal system in disrepair or not functioning
The hand washing sink located next to the food prep area had a leak and therefore the cold water faucet was turned off. Hot water was always available. However, this plumbing issue has been addressed and both faucets are working correctly.
> Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to vermin exist.
This violation was found in the back area of the basement near the street level basement doors in that there is a space at the bottom of the outside door that could allow vermin to enter. In addition, there was a hole in the ceiling resulting from the leak in the sink. The
ceiling has been repaired.
Because there was no physical separation between the food storage area and the rest of the basement, the DOH had the right to inspect ALL areas of the basement. A wall has been erected, as well as a locked door, to separate the food storage area from areas of the basement that are not being utilized for cafe storage or supplies. Therefore,
the DOH will only include the actual food storage area in their inspection. After construction of this wall, the entire area was completely sanitized, repainted and restocked. Even the floor was repainted to insure ease of ongoing maintenance and sanitizing procedures. These corrections meet and exceed DOH requirements.
> Food not protected from potential source of contamination during storage, preparation, transportation, display or service.
All storage bins in the food storage area are now air tight and procedures have been reviewed with staff to ensure all bins are being kept closed at all times. There will be ongoing staff training on sanitary policies and procedures. These corrections meet and exceed DOH requirements.
> Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.
There were old mice droppings at the base of the basement door. This area has been cleaned and we had an exterminator do an assessment to ascertain the existence of mice. It was determined that there is no current sign of live pests and steps were taken to ensure there would not be any in the future.
> Food Protection Certificate not held by supervisor of food operations.
Inspector arrived while manager was off site. All managers have held certification. ALL current staff have now completed the Food Protection Course and all future employees will be required to obtain certification prior to employment. This meets and exceeds the DOH requirement that at least one person on site at all times hold certification.
> Current valid permit, registration or other authorization to operate establishment not available.
Permit expired and renewal not possible without paying all old fines. Once new permit issued, will be properly displayed and renewed at its correct time.
I hope this helps to address everyone’s concerns.
Posted by: Debi Ryan at March 17, 2009 6:35 AM