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VALLEY FOCUS | Valleywide

Restaurant Complaint Hotline Is Popular

January 10, 1998|TOM BECKER

Just as some popular Los Angeles restaurants were shut down in December for short periods for health-code violations, the county Department of Health Services began a free restaurant complaint hotline.

Since its creation, the hotline has averaged about five complaints a day, for everything from dirty utensils to unsanitary handling of food to cockroaches in the bathroom.

"The community is definitely using the service," said Tom West, chief environmental health specialist for the department. "We're getting all sorts of complaints."

When residents call the toll-free hotline at (888) 700-9995, they are greeted with a message that asks them to leave their name and number and the complaint. Although leaving a name and telephone number are optional, many people do so because the department promises to get back to the caller with results of an investigation within 24 hours of receiving the message. Messages are checked daily, West said.

All investigations are conducted by county health inspectors.

West said when the line was connected on Dec. 11, the county was inundated with phone calls. The first day, 41 people called with complaints. The number was 88 on the second day.

Since then, the number has gradually decreased before stabilizing at about five complaints a day, West said.

"It has put an extra burden on the department but nothing we can't handle," he said.

West said the hotline, the first of its kind in Los Angeles, was conceived well before such popular restaurants as Jerry's Famous Deli in Studio City and Mayor Richard Riordan's Original Pantry were closed temporarily for health-code violations.

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