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Healthwatch: Phila. Health Department Comes Clean With Restaurant Inspections

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  No more secrecy regarding potentially dirty, dangerous restaurants in Philadelphia.

The health department is coming clean with inspection reports that had been kept secret for a month.

It's been an issue for one Chinatown restaurant with a long history of troubled reports.

The Philadelphia Health Department is reversing a long standing policy of keeping restaurant inspections secret for a month.

Most other major cities and many local communities make them available immediately.

Those inspections have been an ongoing problem for one restaurant.

Joy Tsin Lau, an institution in Chinatown, has well over 250 health code violations over six years- some deemed serious a public health nuisance.

It's a history the manager didn't want to talk about in September.

"It's outrageous, I just don't understand how it's still open," says Sammy Green.

She was among one hundred lawyers who got sick with a norovirus after a banquet at Joy Tsin Lau in February.

Sammy says, "It was easily the worst couple days of my life."

A health department inspection two weeks before the banquet found serious violations including a lack of soap in the employee bathroom.

A lawyer for the restaurant refused comment.

Richard Kim is representing Sammy in a lawsuit against the restaurant. "It's a sordid history, it's amazing to see that a business can operate with these kinds of violations in place," Kim says.

One week after the banquet, another inspection found 41 violations. But customers wouldn't have known because the inspection reports were kept secret for 30 days to give restaurants a chance to appeal.

That policy is changing now, the health department saying in part, "..we have determined that the non-disclosure period is not required by the code, nor is it consistent with the Nutter Administration's open-data policy. We are moving forward to make our reports available as quickly as technically possible ( between 24 and 72 hours)"
The last inspection of Joy Tsin Lau in late September, again found multiple violations.

The restaurant remains open, and the health department has a court action still pending against the restaurant.

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