Sioux Falls restaurants clean up their act during pandemic

SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) – It was obvious to Dominic Miller that restaurants in Sioux Falls were using their time well during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Public Health Inspector, now Sioux Falls Public Health Director, was one of six inspectors assessing more than 700 Sioux Falls restaurants and grocery stores on a biannual basis.

Restaurants had closed restaurants in the spring of 2020. Many restaurants have filled their employees’ time cleaning up to avoid layoffs and prepare for the eventual return of customers, Miller said.

“It was actually very refreshing,” Miller said. “The restaurant industry has really taken the time to clean up. You could see how they took out the equipment and did a deep cleaning throughout the facility. You knew immediately that they had used their downtime well, so they were ready again when customers returned.

That effort bled into inspection reports for 2021, with an average inspection score of 97.5 out of 100 citywide, Miller said. Only one restaurant failed its inspection this year, compared to five establishments that also failed last year.

Doing a deep clean made it easier to continue this routine this year, Miller said. Not only that, but restaurants have health and cleaning on mind because of the pandemic, Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

Mikael Engebretson, deputy general manager of the Blarney Stone Pub in downtown Sioux Falls, said the restaurant laid off 45 employees at the start of the pandemic as they switched to a take-out-only model. After reopening to customers, workers made sure to improve cleaning efforts throughout the restaurant with disinfection stations and other pandemic precautions.

Blarney Stone generally scores high on inspections – 97 in 2021 and 96 previously – and restaurant staff meet “high cleaning standards,” Engebretson said.

But the pandemic has changed how important it is to keep the restaurant consistently clean and visible, he added.

“On the contrary, we made cleaning routines more frequent,” Engebretson said. “We wanted customers to know too well that we take things seriously. This gives them the peace of mind that we are doing our part to keep them and us safe.

At the height of the pandemic, inspections have changed slightly to encourage social distancing. Some inspectors have chosen to surprise restaurants with a visit during their downtime rather than during peak hours so that they do not enter a crowded or crowded restaurant, Miller said.

“We’re not only under contract (with the city and state to inspect restaurants twice a year), but the public and restaurant owners also expect us to maintain inspections,” Miller said. “For the most part, restaurant inspections are not antagonistic – they are seen as a partnership.”

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