However, previous health department inspections show a history of problems at La Charreada, including multiple citations for cockroaches and a previous closing.
Juan Valery, who manages all three La Charreada locations across the state, told the BannerGraphic that the employees who health inspectors found butchering a deer carcass in the restaurant's kitchen Oct. 24 were acting alone and without the knowledge of managers. The health department subsequently closed the establishment for about 48 hours and put it on probation for six months.
Valery said the restaurant has fired five employees as a result of the deer carcass incident -- two waiters directly involved with bringing the animal into the kitchen, two cooks and the restaurant manager.
Publicity from the inspection has caused sales to fall between 65 and 70 percent in the last two weeks, he added.
As per La Charreada's probation, health inspectors have returned every week to make sure the restaurant has been keeping clean. Inspectors have found no violations in two inspections they conducted in the past two weeks.
A database of previous restaurant inspections was not made available to the BannerGraphic, though Doug Ehmen, the public health coordinator for the Putnam County Board of Health, said even before October's closing, La Charreada was among the ten worst violators of health code in the county.
Additionally, health inspectors said La Charreada had been closed for health code violations once before, though records of the closure, including the reasons it was shut down, were not available at the health department.
In a July 2006 routine inspection, the health department found cockroaches in the kitchen, dairy products and meat stored above state-mandated temperatures, raw and cooked chicken being prepared on the same table and employees handling food with their bare hands, among other things. Inspectors cited the restaurant for 10 critical and 11 non-critical violations in all, according to the inspection report
In August of this year, an inspector again found cockroaches in the kitchen and bare-hand contact with food, as well as improper hand washing and slime and mold buildup in the soda dispenser, according to the report.
Health inspectors returned Oct. 16 -- a little more than a week before the deer carcass was found -- after a woman called and complained she had found a cockroach on her plate.
The inspector found no roaches this time, though he did find several bags of seafood that had been sitting out at 80-degree temperatures for three hours, the report said.
Despite these violations, Valery said La Charreada has made every effort to give customers top-quality food. He reiterated the assertion that owner Socrates Montano's made in October that the restaurant itself was not responsible for bringing the deer into the kitchen.
"It was not the business' fault, it was the employees' fault," Valery said. "And they have been fired."
No one has ever complained about getting sick from La Charreada food, he added.
The deer carcass incident has gained local and even national notoriety. It has been the subject of jokes at public meetings and made blogs and news sites across the nation -- even appearing on television in Baltimore.
Fines for the violation will total about $700, all levied in the form of inspection fees.