Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Starrgate: health violations + philly mag + blogs = online bedlam

So our post last week about Stephen Starr and health code violations created a bit of a brouhaha yesterday.

Eater saw our post, zeroed in on the juicy part and posted something around lunchtime about Stephen Starr having rats.

Well, as you can imagine, the Starr folks weren’t too happy about that and quickly responded to Eater with a missive that including the following statement:
"We have looked at all of our reports and we've gone though our records. We have had nothing like rats. Every restaurant gets violations, but I have no idea where this report came from. It's not even close!"
Woa. We have the report right here and we definitely didn’t make it up. Are we being called liars? We just published what’s in the report. The report that Philadelphia Magazine obtained from Philadelphia’s Office of Food Protection. It clearly states everything that we published in our post last week.

So where’s the disconnect? How can Starr be denying what’s in the official report?

Apparently, the answer lies within the bureaucracy of Philadelphia’s city government. Shocking.

It turns out the Office of Food Protection handed over to Philadelphia Magazine a report rife with mistakes.

For the record, in our original post, we questioned how it was possible for the Starr restaurants to have received so many violations while other notable restaurants didn’t receive many violations at all.

We alleged that it was probably one of two things: either 1) the city’s health inspectors have a hard-on for Starr or 2) Starr never saw much benefit from maintaining sanitary kitchens before.

Well, it has since turned out to be the former.

After the Eater post, Starr contacted both Philadelphia’s Office of Food Protection and Philadelphia Magazine. The Office of Food and Protection soon realized that it delivered an erroneous report to Philadelphia Magazine and contacted the magazine. The magazine’s editors, not wanting to piss off Stephen anymore than they already had, quickly took down the PDF of the report and published this Editor’s Note on their website:
In connection with Philadelphia magazine’s May 2006 article “Dirty Secrets: How to Get Your Mitts on the City’s Restaurant Reports,” this website featured a complete report that was provided to the magazine by Philadelphia’s Office of Food Protection in response to our request for health code violations recorded by their inspectors in 2005 and in the beginning of 2006. After providing that report and after its publication on this website, the Office of Food Protection has informed the magazine that the report contained numerous errors, including reports of health code violations at restaurants that in fact had no such violations. The magazine has removed the report from the website and will endeavor to provide a corrected report when it is provided by the city.
They also sent the following statement to Eater:
There exists no allegation, in Philadelphia magazine or elsewhere, that there is any such problem at Starr restaurants and that any conclusions about any restaurants -- Starr's or others -- drawn from the city's inaccurate report would be wrong and irresponsible.
That sentence is a bit hard to follow, but we’re pretty sure the magazine just absolved itself of any wrongdoing. Which is cool, we guess.

In the end, we’re not going to deny that this was a bit entertaining. We simply posted what we saw to be notable in the health violation report. (We still have the PDF of the report, so we know we’re not crazy.)

Starr has to be kinda pissed at Philly Mag, but we’re sure he doesn’t hold any ill will towards us — after all, blogs never lie. No hard feelings, right Stephen?

Anyway, big ups to the good folks at Eater for helping get to the bottom of this.

Morimotogate: Who is Trying to Take Down Stephen Starr? [Eater]
Editor’s note on Philly Mag gives shout out to Eater and TheIlladelph. Not. [Philly Mag]
Stephen Starr has a dirty little secret

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