Health Department watches as restaurants reopen

As Houston residents work to put their lives back together, so do flooded businesses. Restaurants, in particular, have been working around the clock to open their doors, but we want to know, are they doing it safely?

HOUSTON - As Houston residents work to put their lives back together, so do flooded businesses. Restaurants, in particular, have been working around the clock to open their doors, but we want to know, are they doing it safely?

“We had to replace that little freezer right there. We had to replace that one right there," Owner of Romero's Las Brazas Mexican Kitchen Manuel Romero said.

For Manuel Romero, it has truly been a labor of love.

“We have a big family, and that’s when it comes in handy. We've had uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews come and help," Romero said.

Helping him get back on his feet and back in business after he found a foot of water inside his restaurant.

“It was horrible. I never expected I would go through something like that," Romero said.

Twenty-three days later, he was approved to be open. He’s one of the lucky ones.

“We have been trying to survey about 9,000 to determine whether they are in a position to open up safely to serve and resume operations," Manager of Food Safety Program for Harris County Deanna Copeland said.

Hundreds of restaurants are trying to return to normal life after Harvey - some safely, some not.

“Some had a few problems, and we have asked them to close and get some repairs made," Copeland said.

Copeland said the county brought in extra resources to survey the safety of these repaired restaurants.

“The first thing that we want them to do is to make sure that they sanitize everything, from top to bottom, especially anything that the flood waters hit, need to be discarded. Any repairs need to be made to sheet-rock, allow their walls to dry thoroughly," Copeland said.

With $60,000 later, Romero has brand new kitchen equipment and newly replaced walls. Passing his inspection was his only priority.

“I always think about my employees - I thought, I have a job because I have another place, but they don’t have a job. And we don’t know for how long," Romero said.

Copeland says restaurants are not required to have an inspection, but they are asking owners to contact them before they reopen.

If you think there is anything unhealthy about a restaurant you’ve visited, you can file a complaint on the Harris County Public Health App.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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