With hours until sunset and a slew of relatives in town to celebrate the traditional Passover Seder, Eliat Levitan came to Valley Glatt Market to pick up a few last-minute items for the big holiday.
Instead, Levitan found herself in the middle of a Passover nightmare when she found the kosher market suddenly closed for a surprise health inspection.
"I had to make my Passover meal, came here and the place was closed," fumed Levitan, a 48-year-old Studio City resident. "I was hysterical. I have to cook turkeys and a brisket."
Store officials said a Los Angeles County health inspector ordered them to halt sales about 11:15 a.m. for problems including storing boxes of meat on the floor, instead of in a refrigerator, and lack of hot water.
Several dozen customers angrily complained, surrounding the inspector, said store manager Vadim Pinsky.
"They were shouting at him," he said. "They were angry."
But Michael Spear, director of district environmental services for the county health department, said the store was never ordered to close, only to stop preparing food.
"The problem wasn't with management. It was that some of the customers objected to our inspector being there," Spear said. "A closure would have involved suspension of their permit to operate until they corrected the health hazard. In this case, the problem was corrected and there was no need for a closure."
Pinsky also said the same inspector had visited the store last week. Spear said inspectors usually visit stores every 60 to 90 days. He would not comment on whether the Burbank Boulevard market had been targeted for more frequent inspections.
"We inspect food facilities whether it's the day before Passover or the day before Christmas," Spear added. "We are trying to ensure a safe food supply."