A small cafe located inside a popular bookstore is the latest Upper East Side establishment to be shut down by the New York City Department of Health over critical sanitary violations uncovered during an inspection this week. However, a sign posted by the bookseller tries to pin the blame on a less unnerving issue.
Stop by Shakespeare & Co. at 939 Lexington Avenue, between East 68th and 69th Streets, and you won’t find the unmissable bright yellow closure order stuck to the front door. Instead, two Health Department notices affixed to the cafe’s display case and counter greet customers as soon as they enter the bookstore.
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“Closed by order of the Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene,” the form, dated May 9th, reads in all capital letters.
Right next to it, a printed-out flyer posted by the bookseller falsely states the cafe “is temporarily closed for dishwasher maintenance,” adding that it “will be reopening ASAP.”
In reality, the Health Department ordered Shakespeare & Co. to shut down its cafe on Tuesday after an inspector discovered four critical sanitary infractions, totaling 48 violation points, noting that staff left food, supplies or equipment unprotected from potential contamination. Even wiping cloths were not stored clean and dry or in a sanitizing solution between uses.
The inspector also noted that Shakespeare & Co. had no written standard operating procedure for avoiding contamination by refillable and returnable containers.
No threshold for sanitary violation points triggers an automatic shutdown. Instead, the Health Department orders establishments to shut down when the restaurant cannot correct the infraction immediately, as is the case at Shakespeare & Co., where no cafe managers or supervisors received proper food handling safety training and the Food Protection Certificate required to operate, according to the inspection report.
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Upper East Site reached out to Shakespeare & Co. for comment on the closure and the note blaming dishwasher maintenance but did not hear back by time of publication.
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