Ricardo Land started his early-morning TikTok video outside a Popeyes with a question: “Y’all want to see something?”
But when Land turned on the lights in the store and uttered, “This is Popeyes,” viewers got a peek at a ghastly sight: Rats scurrying across the floor and up the walls of the kitchen. The delivery man estimated that 15 rodents were at the Barracks Row store.
“Look at 'em!” he said in the expletive-filled video. “You still love that chicken from Popeyes?”
(Editor’s note: The video contains explicit language.)
The rat video, which has now been viewed more than 2 million times, led to the Popeyes store shutting down after the company terminated the franchisee’s agreement.
A spokesman for DC Health, the District’s health department, told The Washington Post in a statement that the store was recently closed after an inspection last week “not for rodent activity, but for not maintaining proper cold holding temperatures … in the walk-in freezer and refrigeration units.”
“During DC Health’s inspection of the establishment, no rodents were found inside,” the spokesman said.
A Popeyes representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. The company said in a statement to Fox 5 DC that the franchisee runs only one Popeyes location and that “it is being closed indefinitely.”
“This single restaurant does not reflect our strong food safety and cleanliness standards across Popeyes,” the company said.
An email sent to Izzy Enterprises Inc., the license holder for the franchise, did not elicit an immediate response.
Land, 48, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, said he has been suspended from his job without pay because of “exposure of the Popeyes franchise due to a swarm of rats in the place,” according to a GoFundMe he set up to help with his expenses.
“I have a family of 5 and due to this incident, my family will be hurt by my employer,” he wrote in the fundraiser. “I will not be able to afford rent food or any other necessities to keep my home.”
It’s not the first time a video of rats caught inside a restaurant has made District foodies feel uneasy about the spots they frequent. In 2019, Dupont Pizza shop on P Street NW was temporarily shut down by health officials after a viral video showed rodents running loose in the kitchen.
Before the Popeyes location became Internet-famous, the District’s health department had inspected the store three times this year, according to public records. Among four violations in April, the health department found an exterior door at the Popeyes was “not rodent proof” and gave the store two weeks to correct the situation. An inspection in June found no violations.
An inspection on Oct. 28, after the TikTok video started circulating, found 17 violations, according to inspection records, “including rat droppings outside near the grease bin, openings in the kitchen ceiling and water pooled in the walk-in fridge, dishwashing area and manager’s office.” The violations were first reported by the Washingtonian.
In Land’s Oct. 11 video, he can be heard banging on surfaces, causing the rats to scatter across the kitchen. He sounds baffled and disgusted over how many rodents were there.
“Oh my God!” he says.
He ends the video by again singing the Popeyes jingle.
The store closed Oct. 29, one day after the inspection, according to D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).
Land’s GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $27,000 as of early Friday, far exceeding his $10,000 goal. He thanked everyone on TikTok for the support he has received in recent days. Supporters wrote that they donated to him because he “did the right thing.”
“Who would have spoken up if you hadn’t?” one person wrote.