Dead deer led to restaurant closure

Piedmont Cuisine is back open for business after a three-day closure due to a health inspector’s order to shut down. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood)

Watch video from the police camera here.

By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – A local favorite restaurant was shut down for three business days after a state health department inspector discovered a dead deer had been butchered outside the diner Friday morning.

Rumors on Facebook purported that a dead deer had been brought into Piedmont Cuisine after two employees had collected it from a roadside. The Piedmont Police Department, city code enforcement, and the Canadian Health Department investigated the allegation that morning.

Police Chief Scott Singer said a concerned citizen contacted his department after witnessing what she believed was a large dog being brought into back of the restaurant where the kitchen is located. An officer responded to the restaurant to investigate.

“What they observed was approximately 6:30 Friday morning. This citizen was on their way to drop a child off at school and they observed a dead animal in the roadway just north of Highway 3 and 150th Street. They took no note of it at that time, but coming back they noticed two young men get out of vehicle, pick it up and load into the back of the vehicle,” Singer said.

That citizen, he said, was also heading the same direction as the two men and observed them taking the dead animal into the back of the restaurant. At that point, the witness contacted the police with what appeared to be a health violation.

However, restaurant owner Vinh Tran and Singer said the animal was not brought into the restaurant and he would not have allowed them to bring any animal onto the property.

“I would not let them do that. They unload the deer and place it at the back, on the ground, but it did not go in the kitchen,” Tran told The Piedmont-Surrey Gazette. “The boy did not know it was a violation. I was not there. I get there at 9:30 on Friday morning. The two boys (employees) are suspended for now. They don’t work here now.”

Singer said when police arrived, the scene was contained until the health department inspector could arrive. He and the code enforcement officer, John Moore, had contacted the inspector and waited for him to arrive.

“Our ordinances and codes address health related issues and so we were concerned. We are not the primary investigating agency, but the health department is. John Moore contacted the health department and I called the health department as well,” he said.

The police, code enforcement, and the health department inspector determined the deer did not enter the kitchen. However, action was necessary to ensure the kitchen was not a public health hazard.

“It was determined that while the carcass was not taken inside the kitchen, the two employees had gone into the kitchen so there’s cross contamination. The management and the owners were very cooperative and helpful. They closed the restaurant,” Singer said.

The health department inspector recorded the violations in a report. It reads that the restaurant would be closed to “imminent health hazard, unapproved food source and improper prevention of food contamination.” The report confirms the statements Tran and Singer gave about the deer being processed outside the restaurant.

“Staff members at the restaurant processed a dead deer carcass on the outside of the building this morning. Re-inspection of facility is required before reopening to serve food to the public,” the report reads.

The inspector required the restaurant management to clean the outside of the restaurant around the backdoor, and to sanitize the entire kitchen. Food prepared for that morning was discarded.

“The issue comes from an improper food source,” Oklahoma Department of Health spokesman Cody McDonnell said. “It was not from a certified vendor. It didn’t come from a store.”

The restaurant does not serve venison.

Tran said, “I was mad at the boy for bringing the deer. He’s not working here for a while. The other boy too. They have to learn.”

The restaurant reopened after an inspection Monday found no violations and all sanitation procedures were in compliance.

For more stories like these, subscribe to the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette by calling (405) 373-1616 or sign up online!