The owner of a popular Dickson vegetarian restaurant was morally opposed to wiping out a cockroach infestation because it would have involved "killing little insects".
Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant was on Thursday fined $16,000 for eight food safety breaches.
ACT Health inspectors discovered the live and dead cockroaches in the kitchen of the northside eatery in April 2013.
The threat to public health through contaminated food meant the inspectors shut the "unhygienic" restaurant the next day.
But on Thursday the ACT Magistrates Court was told that the restaurant, which is still trading, has since fixed the problems and won awards for its vegetarian and vegan fare.
Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant owner Khanh Hoang was originally charged with 12 breaches of the Food Act.
He pleaded guilty to eight offences and appeared for sentence in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon.
Court documents said the northside eatery – which specialises in vegetarian cuisine – had been granted an operation certificate in December 2012.
Inspectors raided the restaurant four months later after a public tip-off to discover the breaches, which included a cockroach infestation, incorrect food storage, a dirty kitchen and equipment and obstructed and faulty handwashing facilities.
Court documents included pictures that show a number of live and dead cockroaches around the kitchen, including close to cooking equipment.
At the time, no action had been taken to fix the insects' access points or eradicate the infestation.
Court documents said: "The presence of insects is a key indicator that surfaces are unclean and food is left unattended."
The toilet did not have an air-lock or self-closing door, which meant it opened directly into the kitchen.
Food had been stored in uncovered containers inside the dishwasher and freezer.
Parts of the walls and floors had not been cleaned for a considerable period and had a thick accumulation of grease, dirt, and other material.
Surfaces and equipment – such as stove top and dirty pots, pans and trays – had been left uncleansed, and covered in dirt, food waste and debris.
A missing tap handle meant the hand washing basin could not supply warm running water.
The restaurant was banned from selling food, but cleared to open six days later when the breaches had been corrected.
Mr Hoang attended an interview with the Health Protection Service in June 2013, where he admitted he had been aware of the cockroach infestation but did not carry out pest control measures as it involved "killing".
But pictures tendered in court by defence lawyer Adrian McKenna on Thursday showed the kitchen now in a pristine state.
Mr McKenna said the restaurant has not breached any food standards since 2013.
The lawyer said his client had passionate vegan values but accepted, in hindsight, that his morals had been misguided.
Mr Hoang now brought in a pest control team on a regular basis, has since won awards, and appointed a food safety supervisor.
Magistrate Maria Doogan described the restaurant in the new pictures as immaculate.
She found the offences to be mid-range and convicted and fined Mr Hoang $2000 on each count.
Ms Doogan said she took into account his limited capacity to pay the fine and loss of reputation.
She gave Mr Hoang one year to pay the total of $16,000 in fines.