If you walked up to BJ Southern Buffet, it’d be easy to assume the business is just waiting for employees to unlock the door and open for the day.
There’s no sign on the door to the darkened Greenwood restaurant, where chairs are stacked neatly on top of tables.
Hours are still posted at the entrance of the buffet at 726 Montague Ave.
The restaurant, however, is closed.
One employee found out only after waiting for a manager to open up.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I sat there for an hour waiting for the owner to show up and let me in so I could start my work day. No one ever came.”
The worker posted about the episode on social media and someone else sent her a screenshot of a Facebook post announcing the restaurant closed — which went up just hours before she was supposed to start work.
The announcement, which came Aug. 13, thanked customers but did not explain why the restaurant closed.
A phone number for the restaurant was disconnected. An administrator for the restaurant’s Facebook page responded to an initial request for information by asking what story the Index-Journal was writing about the business. While Facebook acknowledged that an administrator saw subsequent messages to the page, the individual did not answer questions about why the business closed.
In the weeks ahead of closing, the restaurant had food safety inspections on July 10, July 19 and July 29 that each required subsequent visits because of uncorrected violations.
All three inspections cited improper holding temperatures for cold foods.
In the first and second inspection, the restaurant lacked soap and paper towels at handwashing stations in the kitchen. This was corrected ahead of the third inspection.
The first inspection took issue with the cleanliness of the establishment, citing an “observed build up on floors,” as well as the lack of adequate lighting in certain areas. Both issues were corrected before the second inspection.
With each subsequent inspection, the letter grade dropped even as the number score improved because it had one or more uncorrected violations. After the third inspection, the restaurant’s posted grade was a C. Under the letter grade, the food-grade rating sign says: “Needs Significant Improvement.”
The report on the third inspection said a followup inspection would be performed by Aug. 8 to see if the cold food storage issues had been corrected. No report has been filed on an additional inspection. However, that same day the Board of Health and Environmental Control met and had on its agenda a consent order from May in which the restaurant agreed to pay an $800 penalty after it “failed to maintain the premises free of insects, rodents, and other pests.”
BJ Southern Buffet maintained an A rating after the inspections that uncovered that infraction.
In comments on the Facebook post, a manager indicated he told the employees he could reach on Aug. 9 that the buffet was closing.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control did not immediately respond to an email asking it the closure was related to food safety inspections.