Pepper & Spice Thai Cuisine closed due to health violations

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According to a health inspection report, violations at Pepper & Spice Thai Cuisine ranged from cockroaches in store-bought traps to sponges left on counters and general grime on the floor, walls and carpets.

LEWISTON — Popular restaurant Pepper & Spice Thai Cuisine was closed on Wednesday due to numerous health violations found at the business.

According to a health inspection report, violations at the restaurant ranged from cockroaches in store-bought traps to sponges left on counters and general grime on the floor, walls and carpets.

“Entire establishment needs cleaning,” inspector Susan Reny wrote in her notes.

The inspection took place Wednesday between 1:30 and 3 p.m.

It was the second time in a year that the restaurant at 875 Lisbon St. has failed a health inspection. Additionally, owner Junlong Bunleng was indicted in August on a slew of charges including felony counts of tax evasion and misapplication of sales tax. Prosecutors say Bunleng used $10,000 in sales taxes owed to Maine Revenue Services for his own benefit.

According to Reny’s notes from Wednesday’s inspection, Bunleng has indicated that he will not attempt to reopen the restaurant.

“Will no longer be operating,” Reny wrote, “owner is on his way back from Thailand, spoke with him on the phone.”

On Thursday, simple paper signs stating “Closed” were taped to both doors at the Lisbon Street restaurant. There did not appear to be anyone inside. Tables were still set up inside the restaurant, although they had been cleared of place settings.

According to the inspection report, Pepper & Spice was out of compliance with more than a dozen regulations, several of them set to prevent food contamination. Improper thawing methods, lack of a date marking system and missing thermometers were among the violations listed.

The report also charges that restaurant workers failed to eliminate “harborage conditions” in order to combat pests.

“Several cockroaches dead and alive in store-bought cockroach boxes,” Reny wrote in her report.

“Cooking equipment is very dirty,” according to another observation, “grease build-up everywhere.”

Reny also found missing ceiling tiles, plumbing leaks and a ventilation system “dripping with grease,” according to the report.

A follow-up inspection was scheduled for Nov. 1.

Junlong Bunleng, who teaches a Thai cooking class through Lewiston Adult Ed, could not be reached for comment.

After he was indicted on tax evasion charges in August, Bunleng said any mistakes made in tax forms were unintentional. He was scheduled to be arraigned in 8th District Court in Lewiston Sept. 20, but was out of the country at the time. The hearing was rescheduled.

For the second time in a year, the Pepper & Spice Thai Cuisine restaurant on Lisbon Street in Lewiston failed a health inspection on Wednesday.

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