Health Dept. Finds Multiple 'Critical' Violations at Columbia Bar

A breakdown of Chester County's June food inspection reports.

Editor’s note: Soon after our publication of the , representatives of several of the Phoenixville eateries that had been surveyed expressed the view that the reports were unfit to publish. They argued that the language in the health department’s reports is notoriously ambiguous and even misleading. The reports, they said, tend to frame potential hazards as actual hazards and generally overstate the extent of specific problems within the restaurants.

 (A representative from the county health department later corroborated this. In an email exchange with Patch, she acknowledged that the wording of the reports is imperfect and said the county is weighing changes to its health inspection system.)

Concerns noted, Phoenixville Patch proceeded to verify what seemed the plain claims of the May reports–namely that there was “insect/rodent harborage” at Boston Market. To this end I filed a Right to Know request with Chester County to obtain the complete results of two of the inspections. (The county makes available only the areas where restaurants were in violation, but not the precise reasons for the violations. To get this information, one must directly request it from the county). The Chester County Health Department, as of July 10, for reasons that are unclear, has not complied with this request.

Which brings us to here. The June reports are out now and we have decided to run them. Though we acknowledge the below information is incomplete–and promise to continue to do our best to complete it–Phoenixville Patch has determined that what little we have is still sufficiently useful our readers to warrant publication. If you disagree, you can tell us why in the comments, or at tom.sunnergren@patch.com. Thank you, as always, for reading.


The following health inspection results from June 2012 were provided by the Chester County Health Department. The results of each of the county's 2012 health inspections are available here.

148 Bridge St

Inspection Date: 6/21

Total Score (out of 100): 70

Critical Violations

  • Food received in unsound condition; spoilage found; food from an unapproved source
  • Food did not meet temperature requirements
  • Food not protected from contamination/cross contamination
  • Restroom or handwashing facilities not provided, accessible
  • Presence of rodents/insects; harborage; breeding; outer openings not protected

Non-Critical Violations

  • Restrooms/Handwashing facilities found unclean; not provided with necessary supplies
  • Non-food-contact surfaces of equipment found unclean; improperly maintained
  • Single-service items being re-used; improper handling; improper storage 
  • Floors/walls/ceilings found unclean, in disrepair
  • Plumbing leaks or disrepair found

165 Nutt Rd

Inspection Date: 6/12

Total Score (out of 100): 90

Critical Violations

  • Food received in unsound condition; spoilage found; food from an unapproved source
  • Food not protected from contamination/cross contamination

450–452 Bridge St

Inspection Date: 6/12

Total Score (out of 100): 75

Critical Violations

  • Food did not meet temperature requirements
  • Food not protected from contamination/cross contamination
  • Food not thawed properly
  • Improper handwashing techniques by food workers

Non-Critical Violations

  • Non-food-contact surfaces of equipment found unclean; improperly maintained
  • Dishwashing facilities improperly designed, constructed, maintained
  • Floors/walls/ceilings found unclean, in disrepair
  • Plumbing leaks or disrepair found
  • Improper ventilation found

138 Bridge St

Inspection Date: 6/6

Total Score (out of 100): 94

Critical Violation

  • Food not protected from contamination/cross contamination

Non-Critical Violation

  • Restrooms/Handwashing facilities found unclean; not provided with necessary supplies

24 S Main St

Inspection Date: 6/22

Total Score (out of 100): 98

Non-Critical Violations

  • Restrooms/Handwashing facilities found unclean; not provided with necessary supplies
  • Food service equipment improperly stored and handled
Mr. Ed July 10, 2012 at 11:35 AM
No matter how minor, if it's bad enough to report it should be reported to the public. So in my opinion the results, as published, will determine what I will consider before visiting any establishment that has discrepancies.
Kaari Burrows Davies July 10, 2012 at 12:43 PM
HEALTH INSPECTIONS: A CHANCE TO BRING OUR GAME UP As a resident of Charlestown Township for 12 years, I am thrilled to see the number of small businesses and restaurants that have opened in our community, especially downtown Phoenixville. The quality and variety of cuisines locally is noteworthy. Consumers need to remember that most of the buildings in the greater Philadelphia area are old and most have to work on pest control. Issues with rodents are prevalent in all cities ( ie restaurants = food source for hungry criters). Health dept reports have a place in any establishment that handles food served to the public, especially if restaurateurs view a negative report as an opportunity to "bring their game up". Hey Phoenixville Patch: how about giving owners a chance for redemption by giving them space at your web site to report the actions they take to correct health dept issues in their establishments. Let's keep business growing in Phoenixville!
Lynette G. July 10, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Thank you for reporting this, and helping us to make more educated choices with where we spend our dollars in the community, Patch. But you better hope Mummy, or some of the other Phoenixville Pollyanas do not read this story. I posted a comment yesterday about how I thought it inappropriate to allow teens to play video games at the Library, and posters jumped on me because of my negativity. I guess these same posters would overlook a serious food contamination issue by dismissing it as "just poo"
Tom Sunnergren July 10, 2012 at 04:00 PM
That's a terrific idea Kaari. We'll publish a rejoinder from any business owner that feels a report misrepresented the sanitation status of their restaurant. Owners can reach out to me at tom.sunnergren@patch.com.
Bob July 10, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Lynette - If you are going to post a comment on a public internet site, you have to be prepared that some people will disagree with you. To expect otherwise is a bit naive. Calling people names simply because they disagree with you is a rather immature way to respond. If you really felt strongly about your position on the video games, you had every opportunity to respond and explain your position more thoroughly.
Kristin Pesnell July 10, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I am inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. The health dept. language does lend itself to broad interpretation, but the sheer number of violations at Columbia Bar gives me pause. Maybe they had a really off day, but I wouldn't take the risk. I think it would be in Ed McCartney's best interest to respond.
luckyJQ9 July 10, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I'm a little disturbed by the number of places that have food that does not meet temperature requirements. What exactly does that mean? Does it mean they're keeping their refrigerators too warm, or that their hot food is not being kept hot enough behind the line (gravies, sauces, and such)? I know this is part of a larger issue, but I'd love to see the county provide greater detail in their reports.
ellen gibson July 10, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I think the health dept needs to reword their violation codes, because the word critical can be taken the wrong way by alot of people. The Gateway lost the 10 points for having a quart of milk from the day before the inspection that was missed in the morning and then we found out eggs have to be on a bottom shelf so in case of breakage it won't contaminate anything underneath it. These are 2 minor infractions and neither of them would have hurt the public. The Gateway passed all of the other points of interest and would have gotten a perfect score but that's not what is remembered and its a shame!
Bob Domarasky July 10, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I have been having problems with Redners in Phoenixville the past few weeks. The problem lies in the deli department. They are either cutting the luncheon meat with no gloves, or they have gloves on and they are touching other items before they cut your meat. This has been going on for 4 weeks straight. celaning the slicers as well, they are cross contamonating all the way. The management says they are doing something about it and yet it continues to keep happening. I made a call to the Health department as well on them and they will be investigating. They have yet to satisfy me in any way to make me want to come back as a customer. My next call is to Mr Redner himself!!!!!
ChrisForesta July 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Lazy Journalism: Round 2... Tom, I really wish you would have taken my advice and contacted the establishments to get the real report with the descriptive violations. Instead, you put the local businesses on blast until they discover this article and have to defend themselves. I understand you are just "Copy and Pasting" Public Information, but there are 4 people who commented already that have made their minds up about these establishments with out even hearing the other side. Your response in our emails sums up your feelings quite well: "As for your advice about how to do the Health Reports: what we do in the Philadelphia region is just find the pertinent reports, copy, and paste them--otherwise the time investment in the story isn't worth it." Phoenixville is not Philadelphia. We are a smaller community without a hands on local news source(well everyday of the week besides Saturday.) People turn to this site for their news, which makes a bigger impact then I think you realize. Copy and Pasting a report may not affect a Philly Business' reputation but sure will affect a small town business'. I am sorry that your time is more important then making 5 phone calls to these businesses and getting the real reports.
Bud Horenci July 11, 2012 at 02:42 AM
I agree 100% Chris. We get this stuff which can be quite damaging when it shouldn't be and we can't get a Phoenixville Police blotter report. Since Lynn left, this site has become pretty much worthless as far as local news is concerned. Now we cut and paste what 5 or more other Patch's are running. Or we get voting for the cutest dog. Or a circumcision report from Germany. Really? No council meeting recap? No school Board meeting recap? No police activity report? Why bother at all at this point. It's now taking the path of the Phoenix just before it all but shut down. A shame really. If this is the quality of content, just shut it down already.
harry finster July 11, 2012 at 03:20 AM
why doesnt the health dept just post (phoenixville violation-dirty and smelly )
luckyJQ9 July 11, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I'm a bit crazy about lunch meat. I'll only go certain places and Redner's is not one of them. A different Redner's store once sold me a half pound of clearly spoiled turkey. I got it home and it smelled so bad. I couldn't believe that they hadn't noticed when they were slicing. I'm also not a fan of the pre-slicing.
Sean Shepherd July 11, 2012 at 02:33 PM
As a member of the Columbia staff I feel the need to respond to this article. In our defense and the defense of others, as stated above, these inspections are not conducted at the same time and the health department even states this is not a clear representation of the business. I find it a little inappropriate that the journalist here has even stated in the article that the wording is inexact and often times misleading yet this was reported as facts. It is irresponsible to report that restroom/handwashing facilities are not available without inquiring with either the business or the health department what that actually entails. In this case it obviously does not mean there are no bathrooms, it means one of the six sinks in the kitchen was at the time of this inspection, out of service. I feel it would have been in the best interest of the local businesses as well as that of this website to contact the businesses and attempt to dig deeper rather than take minimal information which required next to no research and smear the names of area restaurants. That being said, as I am sure with other establishments, measures have been taken to improve the facilities at the columbia. All issues have been addressed, no matter how small they were in fact. This coincided with a change in management group who are dedicating themselves to improving the condition of the Columbia. I hope that everyone is willing to give the new management staff a chance to prove themselves.
Tom Sunnergren July 11, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Sean: I've filed a Right to Know request for the full report from the county. If the Columbia ownership wants to dispute the language of the inspection report the county published, they can reach me at tom.sunnergren@patch.com and we can set up a time for an interview.
Tom Sunnergren July 11, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Chris: Here's the situation as I see it. The county publishes these reports on their website. I think the information contained therein is, while limited, valuable: as a consumer, I want to know if food I purchase at a business is stored at a proper temperature, if pest control measures are in place, and, generally speaking, that everything is clean. My hope is that when these reports come out in the future, I'll be able to get the complete reports from the County Health Department (the reports that list the actual reasons for the violations) but it's still unclear if they will be able to provide these in a timely manner. That said, any restaurant or business that disputes a specific claim in one of these county reports, or feels their language is misleading, is welcome to contact me at tom.sunnergren@patch.com. I will speak with them and run their side of the story.
ConcernedPHXresident July 11, 2012 at 07:06 PM
You go and get 'em, Bob. I hope they can eventually satisfy you the way you want.
Sean Shepherd July 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I think the complaint that everyone has is that perhaps we should have waited until the actual report was received before publishing unclear findings. Responsible journalism would have included reaching out to the owners prior to your post. Instead you chose to behave like the national enquirer or tmz and it is now the responsibility of the businesses to finish your research. There was no effort to get the complete story. Had you done this you would have been able to give your readers facts and the whole story rather than just shock value.
Tom Sunnergren July 11, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Sean: The intention is not to sensationalize or to make local businesses look bad (on the contrary, I am proudly, brazenly, biased in support of Phoenixville businesses. I patronize them and want to see them succeed) but simply to give our readers the information we get, when we get it. To reiterate, I think the above information is appropriate to print as is for several reasons: One, the source--the Chester County Health Department--is a sound and reliable one. Two, I wrote a rather long introduction contextualizing this information (i.e., outlining the conflict over the wording in the report) so our readers can interpret it properly. Three, I've invited any businesses who feel the findings are inaccurate to use this space to correct the record, or to contact me directly. And four, if I'm given reason to believe a specific report the county has made publicly available is misleading, I will badger the county until they give me the complete record of the inspection (Which is what I did here http://phoenixville.patch.com/articles/health-dept-gives-boston-market-clean-bill-of-health). This is, in my journalistic judgement, a fair, prudent, and efficient way to handle the publication of this information. Again, if you or anyone at The Columbia have specific disputes re the June 21 report, please contact me in this chat thread or directly, and I will work to get the story straight.
TheNate July 26, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Sadly, Nudy's handwashing charge doesn't surprise me. I quit eating there after I saw a cook leave the bathroom without washing - a true "Poppy got sloppy" moment.
. July 26, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Why are people attacking Tom Sunnergren for simply reposting reports done by the Chester County Health Department? If your establishment received a bad report, take it up with the County. That said, I'm pretty sure those getting negative reports were deserved and the offenders are just upset that a 3rd party informed others of the problems. They figure most people aren't going to go to the Chester County Website to look this stuff up so they can get away with findings without the general public knowing. As someone who has gotten food poisoning from a few restaurants I thank Mr. Sunnergren for the "head's up" and will be avoiding all of these places (not that I went to them anyone)> The Columbia Bar & Grille is a decent spot to have a drink away from all of the kids but in my (and most others I know) the food is overpriced and not very good.


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