SB Mexican restaurant free to open doors after health code violations

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A South Bend Mexican restaurant is free to open its doors after several potential health code violations were taken care of.

Fiesta Cancun opened earlier in October to great fanfare. So much so, the owners of the restaurant were overwhelmed with the flood of customers that they had problems with potential cross contamination with foods and problems with cooling and heating foods properly.

The St. Joseph County Health Department received three separate reports of people getting sick after eating at the restaurant, though no results have come back saying there was any food born illnesses.

"A third complaint came in so it's like ok, we got to skip over this step and we have to ask you to close because we're concerned," Carolyn Smith, Food Service Director for St. Joseph County Health Department said. "We want to know what's going on."

The health department investigated after each of the three complaints and found the possibility of food born illness.

"You can't visually see food born illness," Smith said. "What we saw were some procedures that historically could be a contributory factor to product becoming contaminated. We saw raw chicken over beef. We saw raw chicken over some other items. Those are the kinds of things we saw and addressed."

Though the restaurant was closed by the owners while they tried to fix these issues, the health department also demand they closed until they deemed it satisfactory.

At that point, the co-owners of the restaurant worked round the clock to get up to code. They cleared out an office to make room for an area where they can properly handle and separate foods and will have new thermometers to test temperatures of foods. But this is about more than business for the co-owners.

"I feel bad, very bad," Juan Camarena, one of three co-owners of Fiesta Cancun said. "At this point, it's not the money we lost or what we will lose if we close. I care more about the customers than a dollar or a million dollars. I'm really sorry and hope they get better."

The owners say this is just an isolated incident. They also own successful restaurants in Rockford, Ill. and Michigan City. So they're hoping residents can understand what happened and feel safe in coming back.

"My message is, I've enjoyed it," Bill Dobslaw, the landlord of the Fiesta Cancun building said. "My wife has enjoyed it. Friends have enjoyed it and we're doing great. I'm sure it's going to be a great restaurant for years to come."

From where the building used to be, the co-owners are really spending a lot of time in making the facility appealing.

They've imported many of the decorations from Mexico and the entire building is surrounded in painted murals. When entering, you're visually overwhelmed by the number of colors and decorations all over the restaurant, making for what looks to be a very fun environment.

The owners are hoping residents will see this road block they've had with mistakes and feel confident they will have a good meal without getting sick.

"I really want to appreciate everybody that came here," Camarena said. "At this point, I'm asking everybody to trust us. It's not something we wanted to happen. So, come back and see us."

The restaurant will be on probation with the St. Joseph County Health Department for six months and will have a number of unannounced inspections. The restaurant is also responsible for $450 in fines to be paid by Friday, Nov. 4.