Mold and rats: University Club and Overton Square restaurant receive low grades from health department

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The latest inspections from the Shelby County Health Department found roaches, mold and potentially dangerous eating conditions at two surprising dining spots: Robata restaurant in Overton Square and the exclusive, members-only University Club on Central Avenue.

The Shelby County Health Department gave Robata a score of 60 out of 100 on June 17, docking the restaurant for multiple critical violations that could put diners' health at risk, like moldy food in storage and refrigerated temperatures as high as 65 degrees for tofu, 54 degrees for chicken and 41 degrees for pork.

WREG went to the restaurant Tuesday to speak with a manager. She said she didn't want to comment and retreated to the kitchen.

Instead, we talked with customers eating lunch.

"We both work in a restaurant down the street, so it's a little concerning," said one customer, who added her restaurant keeps refrigerators set at 38 degrees.

Eventually, WREG did get hold of someone willing to explain the dangerous conditions.

David Lindsey manages multiple restaurants for the Jimmy Ishii group, including Robata.

"We had a broken refrigerator," Lindsey said. "We weren’t using it at all, but the cooks had not cleaned it out.”

Lindsey said they’ve fixed the issues, and the health department promised to come back 10 days later to re-inspect. He said another inspection would prove they resolved the previous issues.

“I don’t make any excuses," he said. "It’s embarrassing, and I certainly apologize to all our customers.”

Health Department officials visited Robata on Tuesdya just after the airing of this story, and they scored Robata a 76. They said food storage temperatures are improved, but there were still sanitation issues like flies and roaches in the food storage area.

Meanwhile across Midtown, the exclusive University Club of Memphis advertises “some of the best cuisine” in town on its website, but the kitchen only earned a 70 out of 100 when the health department came in May.

The inspector found dead roaches in the food-prep area.

We went to the private club Tuesday and talked with a manager. He said he had no comment, as the club's chef is on vacation.

Myra deGersdorff, general manager of the University Club, contacted WREG on Wednesday and said the issues cited by the Health Department were fixed the following day.

She said the restaurant received a score of 95 the previous inspection, which WREG confirmed via an open records request with Shelby County.

DeGersdorff said Health Department officials were supposed to return for a follow-up inspection in 10 days, but that has not happened yet. She said she is confident the score will rise after the follow-up.

"We have the utmost confidence in our culinary team," deGersdorff said. "This was an anomaly; the kitchen is operated in a healthy and efficient manner and will continue to be so."

WREG filed an open records request with Shelby County officials to obtain more inspection reports for both entities. As stated by deGersdorff, the University Club kitchen had scored in the 90s for both of its previous inspections.

Health Department inspectors returned to the University Club on July 10 and gave the kitchen a score of 99.

Following our coverage, the Health Department also returned twice to Robata on Overton Square. Each time the restaurant improved, but it has still not scored in the 90s.

In fact, the Heath Department re-inspected Robata the day our original story aired and gave a score of 76.

The Health Department returned again July 18 and gave the restaurant an 86. Inspectors still made note of Robata having issues with cleanliness as well as having insects and rodents present near food.

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