The exterior of Sea40 Japanese Cuisine in Lewiston on Monday. The city closed the restaurant 10 days ago after an inspection flagged an “imminent health hazard.” Kathryn Skelton/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The city closed popular restaurant Sea40 Japanese Cuisine in the Lewiston Mall 10 days ago after finding dead and live cockroaches in the kitchen, according to a health inspector’s report.

A sign posted on the door of Sea40 in Lewiston. Kathryn Skelton/Sun Journal

In his report Sept. 13, Louis Lachance wrote that he found the “largest concentration” under a Pepsi cooler and upright freezer and issued an Imminent Health Hazard designation, stopping all service.

A sign on the restaurant door Monday said, “Due to an equipment malfunction, we will be closed until further notice. We will Sea you soon!”

Lachance said Monday that he’s been working closely with management and had “visited with the hired pest control company and disinfectant company to devise a plan to remedy.”

“I assume I will be able to lift the IHH to reopen by Friday, we’re hoping,” he said.

Lachance said equipment is often removed and discarded in situations like these if pests have been hiding there.

In this case, the owner is going above and beyond expectations to resolve the issue and to be on the safe side, he said.

Michelle Gosselin, marketing and public relations coordinator for Sea40, said the Sept. 13 inspection was not previously scheduled or a routine inspection.

“After (Lachance) called us and said he was going to do an inspection based on a complaint he received, he walked through the kitchen, kicking and shaking some things, and nothing was visible,” Gosselin explained. “He shook the Pepsi cooler and (a bug) came out. He then shook the upright freezer and found one dead bug.”

Gosselin said Lachance told her that “one bug is all it takes” for the restaurant to be shut down.

She said there were no other violations in the kitchen and she suspects the bugs came in on one of the cardboard boxes containing out-of-state food.

“Lewiston restaurants don’t generally have cockroaches in their kitchens,” Gosselin said. “Lately, they’ve been coming in on boxes with the food they order.”

Since closing, Franki Tam, owner of Sea40, said he has taken several steps to remedy the situation, including replacing the equipment that had bugs underneath them, purchasing a new dishwashing machine, painting his floors, having a certified sanitation company clean the entire kitchen, switching from cardboard boxes to plastic totes for storage, and changing his pest control plan from monthly checks to biweekly checks.

Gosselin said that much of what Tam has done is “above and beyond what is required by the city.”

“All we had to do was make sure there are no bugs,” Gosselin said. “Franki figured since we needed to close, he might as well do some extra work. We’re losing about $20,000 a weekend that we’re closed, so we don’t take this lightly at all.”

Tam said he has had a maintenance plan in place with a pest control company since before the restaurant opened in February 2012, and in the seven years he has been open, he has never failed an inspection or had bugs found in his restaurant.

“I just feel so sorry for all of my customers,” Tam said. “All of my customers, they’re not just my customers. They’re my family. I feel so bad.”

Gosselin said that if any customers have questions, they can call anytime.

“We’re proud of what we do here, and we don’t want to hide anything,” Gosselin said. “You think your maintenance plan is doing everything it needs to do, and then something like this happens. We’re beefing things up and paying more attention to it. That’s what you have to do.”

The city first received a complaint about a cockroach seen in the kitchen on July 11. Lachance said the complaint wasn’t forwarded to him until the day before he went in to inspect. He wasn’t sure why there had been a delay.

Sea40 was last inspected in March 2018 and passed.


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