RUSSELLVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The general manager of the restaurant at the center of a Franklin County salmonella outbreak said he hopes to re-open their doors this week.
Rafael Torres Mendoza, manager of El Patron in Russellville, said health department officials were inspected the restaurant Monday and cleared them to re-open. He's hoping he can do so by the end of the week.
Health officials confirmed a total of 14 people were exposed to salmonella earlier this month. El Patron has been closed since the first report. Officials said it is believed the illness spread during some sort of cross contamination in the kitchen-- but they've yet to pinpoint the exact cause.
"Once an establishment has had the permit suspended, then they have to go through the procedure where they correct the items on the inspection sheet," said Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers. "They have to correct all of those items; they have to undergo a re-inspection, and at that point they will be allowed to re-open."
Mendoza said in the past, they always received top-tier health scores before the salmonella incident.
"It's hard, especially for the people," Mendoza said. "We just feel bad for the people that got sick."
The last few weeks, Mendoza said, have been a struggle for his employees as well, who have no work to perform, and no pay to receive. He said the incident has been a wake-up call to everyone at the restaurant, that problems can arise at even the cleanest of eateries."
"At this point, we just have to be more careful. We always tried to be careful and be clean. It (wasn't) because the restaurant was dirty; it was something else," he said.
It is a problem Mendoza said they will try to prevent from happening again. He said he thanks everyone who has supported his restaurant and its staff during its closure.
According to health officials, El Patron had to score an 85 or better and be re-certified in the state's food safety programs before they can officially re-open.
An official date for the re-opening has not been announced.