Nunu's Tavern in Hillcrest Temporarily Closes Due to Health Code Violations

The County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health said a routine inspection at the longtime tavern on 5th Avenue found vermin and other minor health violations

A beloved tavern that’s been a staple in the Hillcrest community for more than 50 years has been temporarily shut down due to health code violations, including the presence of vermin.

The County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH) conducted a routine inspection at Nunu’s Tavern located at 3537 5th Ave. on Monday.

The inspection found health violations including "vermin infestation," which is considered a “major violation” by the DEH.

Under state law, this type of violation requires “immediate corrective action, a suitable alternative, or the closure of the impacted areas of the food facility until compliance is achieved,” per the county website.

The inspection report obtained by NBC 7 Wednesday said the vermin infestation "poses an imminent health risk." 

For now, the grade card displayed on the window of the business has been removed and a "closed" sign has been posted at the entrance. 

"Facility shall remain closed until vermin have been abated and facility is approved to re-open in writing," the report reads. "'Notice of Closure' sign is not to be removed, hidden or relocated. Any indication of vermin upon re-inspection will warrant that the facility to remain closed and fee will apply for additional re-inspection(s)."

According to the report, one live roach was found inside a dry storage area, under a shelf, while another was found on the ceiling inside a bathroom. Rat and mice droppings were found under a cooking line and under a shelf in a dry storage area. There was no evidence of live rats and mice, only the droppings. The business owners were asked to contact pest control and clean up the droppings.

The bar also serves food out of a small, full-service kitchen. The DEH said the violations must be corrected "before the facility is granted permission to re-open."

The DEH said the inspection also found minor violations across these categories:

  • Approved equipment and utensils
  • Floors, walls and ceilings
  • Food contact surfaces
  • Food safety certification
  • Food handler training
  • Garbage and refuse
  • Non-food contact surfaces clean
  • Premises, vermin-proofing, personal/cleaning items
  • Proper handwashing facilities
  • Toilet facilities

Nunu’s is under new ownership; Jon Stamataopoulos took over the business on Jan. 9.

Stamataopoulos said Wednesday he is doing everything he can to make the tavern better and resolve the health code violations. His plan, if the DEH approves, is to reopen by 5 p.m. Thursday.

According to Stamataopoulos, maintenance at the property had been neglected for years. He told NBC 7 he initially thought most of the issues could be fixed with deep cleanings and pest control.

He said that when he called pest control experts to inspect the business, they discovered vermin in the walls, inside holes used for wiring speakers and televisions.

Stamataopoulos said many of those holes were not properly drilled and installed, leaving room for vermin to make their way inside. 

The DEH report states holes were found "in various areas" of the business "allowing for vermin entry," including under kitchen shelves. The DEH ordered all holes and crevices be sealed.

Stamataopoulos said he is immediately handling that problem so the bar can re-open.

The late-night watering hole has been a neighborhood mainstay for more than five decades. It’s known for its stiff drinks, cozy leather booths, dim lighting and a lively bar top that’s typically packed to the brim.

Nunu’s is open daily, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The kitchen is open until 12:30 a.m. or 1 a.m., depending on the day, and offers American bar fare like chicken wings, burgers, nachos, fries and onion rings.

One week ago, in an unrelated case, the DEH temporarily closed the Pancho Villa supermarket in Normal Heights, due to serious health violations.

A 13-page report obtained by NBC 7 said the inspection found cockroaches, rodent nests, and droppings at the property, among many other violations. The popular market fixed its violations and re-opened earlier this week.

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