Popular Florida Pizzeria Fails to Meet Health Standards 10 Straight Times, Couldn't Care Less

“Do you really think this inspector sat down and counted every rodent dropping?” owner Ed Smeltz asked.

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May 10 2019, 7:36pm

Photo: Getty Images

The Hideaway Pizza Pub opened last August, neatly tucked into a mostly residential neighborhood in St. Petersburg, Florida. Owner Ed Smeltz originally intended to put apartments on that piece of land, but then noticed the coffee shop and breakfast joint across the street and opted for a pizzeria instead. "We wanted to create a destination—not just a local bar or pizza place, but a destination,” Smeltz told Creative Loafing. “We want people to say, 'Have you been to The Hideaway?'”

The locals might still ask each other that question, but the motivation may be slightly different than he intended. Although the Hideaway apparently makes a pretty solid Margherita pie, it’s also earned the dubious distinction of failing ten straight health inspections since its doors opened late last summer.

According to WTSP, the Hideaway did not meet “inspection standards” on the state’s first visit last July, it didn’t meet those standards on their most recent visit earlier this week, and—SPOILER ALERT—things weren’t great on the eight inspections in between. The restaurant was closed twice in April, in part because of the “approximately 20-35 flies” behind the bar, the “approximately 50-75 rodent droppings ranging from moist to dry under indoor bar” (and the other rodent feces that the inspector couldn’t “reach to touch”), and the bee on the soda gun (sounds like a party, as far as pests go).

“First of all, we weren't shut down,” Smeltz told the news station. “The person responsible is the only reason this happened and it was because of a disgruntled employee's mother who called and said we had problems.” He also added that he was “surprised” by the inspector’s report. “Do you really think this inspector sat down and counted every rodent dropping?” he asked. (Uh, if the inspector was trying to reach out and touch the poop he saw under the booths in the dining room, then yes, it seems reasonable to believe that he kept track of the others.)

In the most recent inspection, which was conducted on May 7, the inspector noted three basic violations and three intermediate violations, and reported that a follow-up inspection would be required. According to Fargason, the inspections are unannounced, but the Hideaway can expect someone to drop in on or after June 6.

The Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants defines basic violations as “best practices to implement”; in Hideaway’s case, that means things like replacing a rusted can opener and finishing the walls and ceilings in a storage area. Intermediate violations are “those which, if not addressed, could lead to risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness or injury,” which included Hideaway’s failure to provide its staff with “state approved employee training” and having stained cutting boards.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, IDK), the Hideaway seems to fare better with its customers than it does with state health inspectors. It has received relatively positive reviews online, with a 4.5-out-of-5 rating on Facebook (“This will be our neighborhood ‘go to’ pizza place”), a 4.5 on TripAdvisor (“Best Pizza in 50 Miles”), and a 3.5 on Yelp (“I really want to love this place”).

“We have a reinspection this month and I can almost assure we are going to pass every single one of them,” the restaurant’s manager, Jay Bradley, told WTSP.

All right, one in a row! Maybe! Possibly!

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the DBPR’s Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants told MUNCHIES that it does not use the terms pass or fail regarding restaurant inspections. “The inspection reports have different dispositions based on what the inspector observed during the visit,” Patrick Fargason explained.