Three of Washington's most fashionable eating places -- Tiberio Ristorante, the Cosmos Club and Jean Pierre -- have been warned twice in the last four months by city health inspectors to clean up their kitchens or face suspension of their licenses.
The health violations, found on routine inspections, have been corrected since and the three restaurants passed their latest inspections with very high scores.
The Washington Post cafeteria also recently was warned about unsanitary conditions but subsequently passed its health inspection.
The warnings were among the 833 issued by city health inspectors since Oct. 1 in 5,061 inspections, according to city records. In addition, 43 food establishments failed to correct the violations and were closed temporarily.
Overall 17 percent of the city's 3,500 food establishments -- restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, bakeries and carryout shops -- failed to meet the required health standards in the last six months.
Sweetbreads were cooling on the floor and uncovered meats were stored in the ice cream freezer at Tiberio's, a name synonymous with haute cuisine and matching prices, when the inspector visited Nov. 13. Two weeks later an inspector found more uncovered foods in the walk-in refrigerator, other food stored on the floor, and food containers with unclean tops and sides, according to inspection reports.
At the prestigious and exclusive Cosmos Club, an inspector found "mice droppings in corners and behind equipment" on Nov. 2. A second visit on Nov. 20 turned up "dropping adjacent to reach in refrigerator in kitchen," according to the report.
Jean-Pierre's, a posh French restaurant, had "pheasant stored on top of fish in crust" and "bread and sauce on floor in kitchen uncovered" as well as a "moldy" dipper well for the ice cream scoops, according to the Nov. 20 inspection.
An establishment must score at least 70 points out of a possible 100 to remain open. A score of 70 to 84 brings a warning notice and usually a reinspection in two weeks. If the rating for the reinspection falls below 85 then the city's environmental health administration, which runs the inspection progrm, threatens revocation of the operating license.
Violations can include no soap in employe washrooms -- two points from the score, roaches in the kitchen -- four points, and lack of protection of food on display -- five points.
An inspector must find, on the average, a dozen violations to warrant closing an establishment or a half dozen violations to issue a warning such as the half dozen violations to issue a warning such as the cases of Tiberio's, the Cosmos Club, Jean Pierre and the Post cafeteria.
"We are finding a lot of borderline cases that are above 70 but not quite at 85," said Dr. Bailus Walker, head of the environmental health administration. "Fifteen to twenty percent of our establishments require followup visits. This hard core we have not been able to crack. We can inspect them every month and still find violations."
He identified the "hard core" as small restaurants with a "big turnover of personnel" and eating places that stay open 24 hours. "The longer you are open the greater chances of sanitary deficiences" because there is little time to halt operations and clean up, he said.
"We are the cleanest place in the area," said Tiberio owner Giulio Santillo, when asked about scores of 70 and 80 his restaurant received on the two inspections in November.
He later said, "we are not the cleanest place in the world. A kitchen is not a sitting room."
The pan containing the sweetbreads was placed on the floor, he said. "The guy did it while the girl [the inspector] was there." Santillo explained it was a large pan, 24 to 30 inches round and 24 inches deep, and indicated there was no other space for it.
Walker sent the restaurant a letter threatening revocation of its operating license because of the two unsatisfactory ratings. The threat was dropped when the restaurant scored a 91 on Dec. 6.
A Cosmos Club official declined to discuss the scores of 70 and 72 the club received in November. It scored 92 on Nov. 28.
"It's not easy... but we try" to keep things clean, said Jean Michel Farret, Jean Pierre owner, when asked about the restaurant's scores of 71 and 80 in late November and early December. The restaurant received a 95 on Dec. 5.
"We start at 9 a.m. and stop at 1 a.m. and we cannot see everything," he said. He added that the substance in the dipper well was not mold but deposits from water flowing into the well.
Fourteen Safeway stores have received warnings including the Georgetown store at 1855 Wisconsin Ave. NW. The Safeway store at 521 12th St. NW. was closed Nov. 7 when it scored 64.
It had "bags of potatoes damaged by rats in customer display area," according to the inspection report. The potatoes were destroyed, according to the report. The store reopened the following day with a reinspection score of 91.
At the Georgetown store an inspector found "bottom of salad display cases (underneath) greasy and has mice feces" during an Oct. 18 inspection. Two days later the store scored a 92.
All Safeway stores have been reinspected and scored in the acceptable range above 85, according to city records.
"Sanitation is a high priority with us," said a Safeway spokesman. "We are taking actions to keep the stores as clean as we can. Some are old stores that do get dirty just from the traffic, but we have a major program to correct any discrepancy."
Other stylish restaurants that have received low ratings and then improved include W. H. Bone, 401 M St. SW, with a 70 score on Jan. 18 and a 92 on Feb. 12. "They were mostly for incidental things like soap not being available for employes. Nothing major as far as food health hazards. All relatively simple but costly" on the point score, said Bone manager Petro Szwec.
The Jockey Club in the Fairfax Hotel, 2100 Massachusetts Ave. NW., received a 70 on Jan. 26 and a 96 on Feb. 6. Manager William Axness said the first inspection came during renovations at the hotel, but added that some of the demerits were for "little details I don't think anyone should take into consideration."
The Post cafeteria received a 70 score on Nov. 29 and then raised it to a passing 91 on Dec. 13.
Several restaurants received certificates of merit in January for scoring 90 or more on all inspections over the last nine months.
The restaurants were the Covington and Burling cafeteria, 818 16th St. NW; the Washington Hilton; Napoleon's, 2649 Connecticut Ave. NW; Antonio's restaurant, 633 D St. NW; Jim's Place, 1725 DeSales St. NW; GSI Cafeteria No. 3720 in the Executive Office Building, 1620 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips, 2400 Wisconsin Ave. NW.; GSI Cafeteria No. 3090, U.S. Courthouse, 301 Third St. NW.; IUE Cafeteria, 1126 16th St. NW., Caldwell's Cafeteria, 1254 24th St. NW; Hardee's, 2301 Benning Rd. NE.; Gino's, 4525 Benning Rd. SE., and GSI Cafeteria No. 381 at the Forrestal Building, 800 Independence Ave. SW.