Capitol Alert

Roaches, other violations prompt recent closure of Capitol’s basement cafeteria

Customers wait for their food at Griselda’s World Cafe in the Capitol basement in December 2011.
Customers wait for their food at Griselda’s World Cafe in the Capitol basement in December 2011. Sacramento Bee file

Health inspectors recently shut down the state Capitol’s basement cafeteria after finding an “active infestation” of cockroaches, layers of grease and other health and safe code violations.

Griselda’s World Cafe, shuttered after a Dec. 18 inspection and a Dec. 30 reinspection, received permission to reopen after passing a third inspection Tuesday. But a top legislative administrator said Wednesday that the cafe will remain closed at least until officials have a chance to meet with the cafe’s owner – and maybe longer.

“I didn’t want to reopen it, even though she passed inspection, until I had chance to talk to” cafe owner Griselda Barajas, said Debra Gravert, the Assembly’s chief administrative officer. She hopes to meet with Barajas by the end of the week, she said.

Barajas, who once ran the popular Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown Sacramento, could not be reached for comment. She also has a catering business.

Tourists, legislative staff members, and others frequent the brick-lined basement cafeteria, the oldest of two in the Capitol. People can eat their meals in an adjoining dining area, where several TV sets broadcast legislative hearings or news shows.

In a 2011 review, Capitol Alert awarded Griselda’s World Cafe 3.5 out of five “sporks.” “Griselda’s has successfully taken Tex-Mex to the state buffet line,” the review read, while noting that the eatery takes on a “stark feel” when the Legislature is out of session.

The Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee has contracted with Barajas to operate the cafeteria since at least 2007, Gravert said. Under the month-to-month agreement, Barajas pays 0.5 percent of total gross sales to the state. It was unknown Wednesday how much money that entails.

Gravert said she has heard grumbling about the cafe’s offerings. “I think everyone’s grown weary of the same fare every day,” she said.

If Barajas and the state part ways, Gravert said she will propose wholesale improvements to the aging basement facility. “If we’re going to put another cafeteria down there, I want to avoid any of those problems in the future,” she said.

Besides noting numerous living and dead cockroaches, the Dec. 18 inspection report by the Sacramento County Environmental Management Department flagged heavy grease accumulation in the plumbing and storage area, a dirty stove hood, and an ice machine draining water onto the floor. There also were “excessive amounts of equipment for catering and unused items for kitchen observed throughout the facility,” it read.

A Dec. 30 reinspection found an “active infestation” of cockroaches in “various stages of life” around the front service line and dishwasher area, as well as cockroach excrement, according to the county report.

A week later, the cafe passed inspection and its health permit was restored.

The Capitol’s other cafe also has had recent run-ins with authorities. In August, the U.S. Marshals Service took money from the cash registers of O! Deli on the sixth floor to satisfy a court order stemming from the termination of two union-represented employees from the restaurant.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.