Sam Wo owners vow to reopen

SAN FRANCISCO

A room filled with loyal customers begged the San Francisco Health Department to reopen the 100-year-old restaurant that's become a Chinatown icon. Indeed, it's known for its famously rude waiter, the late Edsel Ford Fong -- and its signature noodle rolls with barbecue pork. But if anyone's ever warned you not to watch sausage being made, the same goes for the noodle rolls.

Rat droppings were documented to be on the very same tray that apparently carried that celebrated barbecue pork. A health inspector showed picture after picture of a kitchen infested with rodents where meats are left uncovered at room temperature, toxic cleaning supplies are stored directly above food, and employees don't wash their hands.

A health inspector said "An employee was observed coughing over produce that he was preparing."

The owner, David Ho, listened quietly as his daughter translated and agreed to fix everything, including fire hazards, like gas ranges without ventilation, dangling extension cords, and a fire escape that doesn't reach the ground. None of them are cheap fixes.

"We have no idea how much construction's going to cost, what needs to be done in a safe and proper manner," said Julie Ho, the restaurant owner's daughter.

But Chinatown leaders are vowing to lend a hand.

"If we have to mobilize people to help Mr. Ho to clean up the restaurant, we will do it," said Leon Chow, former head of the Chinese Progressive Association.

And once that happens, the health department will return to re-inspect the restaurant and retrain the employees.

Neither the health department nor the owners would say exactly when Sam Wo could reopen, but when it does, all those violations will have to stay corrected or the next closure could be for good.

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