A lifetime in restaurants has ended for a man after an infestation of cockroaches and filthy conditions forced the CEO of the City of Melbourne to shut down the Southbank premises which has led to fines totalling $90,000.
Fadi Sarkis, 52, was the sole director of Southbank Three Pty Ltd that was the proprietor of Olla Messa restaurant and bar when complaints by two patrons in March, 2013 led to multiple charges from accumulated food waste, dirt and other matter and the ''harbourage of pests''.
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Cockroaches carry nasty health risk
After the closing of a cockroach-infested Southbank restaurant, entomologist Simon Dixon explains the health concerns associated with these pests.
Prosecutor Trevor Wallwork told a court the pests were mostly live and dead cockroaches and that breaches of standards for cleanliness at the food premises resulted in a 10-day ''closure order'' from April 30, 2013.
Mr Wallwork, who described such a move as ''rare'', detailed 11 charges, to which Sarkis and the company pleaded guilty, that followed the complaints which included the presence of cockroaches on the kitchen counter and on seating.
Mr Wallwork told Melbourne Magistrates Court that chief investigator Laura Bruce and council officers conducted nine inspections of the premises between March 19 and May 9, 2013 in which they saw the accumulations, an unsealed grease trap and live and dead cockroaches ''throughout the premises''.
Sarkis and the company, he said, had failed to ensure that the food contact surfaces were in a clean and sanitary condition and had not stored food to protect it from likely contamination.
''[They] failed to ensure that the food premises had a sewage and waste water disposal system that was constructed and located so that there was no likelihood of [that] polluting the water supply or contaminating food,'' he said.
Mr Wallwork also summarised how a number of orders issued to the proprietor that required the premises to be ''put in a clean and sanitary condition, in a state of good repair, altered and improved'' were not wholly complied with.
An inspection of May 9, 2013, found no cockroaches and so the closure order was revoked.
Defence lawyer Ian Polak, for both defendants, who have no prior convictions, told magistrate Duncan Reynolds that as Sarkis had worked in restaurants from an early age he ''basically knows what he is doing in relation to standards and requirements''.
Mr Reynolds responded: ''That might be open to some question ... but I understand the sentiment of the comment.''
Mr Polak said there had been problems fitting out the restaurant and that cockroaches which were a major problem in the area given it was near the Yarra River.
Mr Polak said his client, who was no longer associated with the restaurant in any capacity and had undergone a relationship breakdown, had engaged pest controllers and there were a number of costly problems in construction on the new site.
He said Sarkis, now on sickness benefits, was ''very close to a breakdown'', was on medications and had large financial debts, no assets and was unemployable.
''He is not in a position to pay anything and this is unlikely to improve in the near future,'' he told Mr Reynolds. ''He's basically been left holding the baby.''
In his sentencing, Mr Reynolds acknowledged Sarkis' ''domestic issues'' which had impacted on his day-to-day activities, but noted that any penalty had to reflect the seriousness of the offences which might go to ''hopefully inspiring others in the restaurant business to ensure their compliance''.
Sarkis and the company were each convicted and fined $45,000 and each was ordered to pay $2700 costs.