South-side Chinese restaurant Mr. Yen's was shut down Tuesday by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department for multiple repeated critical violations.

Health Department food division supervisor Roxanne Sharp said the restaurant, 4117 S. National Ave., was handed a seven-day suspension starting Feb. 11 and won't reopen until violations are addressed. Sharp said the suspension is the third in the restaurant's history, and if repeat critical violations are found again, a 30-day suspension would be put in place.

The Health Department, which Sharp said serves more as an educator than a regulator, will attempt to work with restaurants upon initial violations, but if repeats occur, it is forced to shut them down.

Mr. Yen's owner John Burke, who met with Sharp this morning, could not be reached for comment by deadline. Sharp said her Feb. 11 reinspection, along with inspector Lisa Brenneman, was a follow-up to a New Year's Eve inspection and occurred after the department received a complaint Feb. 10.

Inspectors observed six critical violations:
  • a cook smoking in the kitchen, a repeat violation;
  • several live and dead cockroaches throughout the kitchen, a repeat violation;
  • raw chicken stored over shrimp in a rear walk-in cooler and raw chicken stored over cooked chicken in a front walk-in cooler;
  • a lack of sanitizer in a dishwasher while it was in use, a repeat violation;
  • food debris and a dead cockroach in a mixer bowl; and
  • chicken held at 108 degrees to 116 degrees on a rack at room temperature, which violates rules that it must be held at 41 degrees or below or at 135 degrees or above.
Among noncritical violations, inspectors observed utensils stored in standing water; the improper thawing of sausage at room temperature; unclean floors, walls and equipment; and uncovered food in coolers. Sharp said the restaurant also had broken water pipes in the front caused by faulty plumbing.  

Sharp said the most recent suspension would hit Mr. Yen's hard, given it will be closed during the Valentine's Day weekend and news of the shutdown is circulating on social media.

"People aren't going to go back if they don't follow through and get their act together," she said.

Mr. Yen's was founded in 1998 by Burke's father Tobby Yen, whose restaurants in Springfield spanned back to the late 1970s with the opening of his first restaurant, Diamond Head, which he later sold, repurchased and closed, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. He also was known for Grand Fortuna, which also has since closed.

Yen died in July 2012 at the age of 67 after losing a battle with lung cancer, according to an online obituary.