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August 30, 2015

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Firefly owners reduce hours, lay off workers at Sahara Ave. location

Business has been down since salmonella outbreak at restaurant on Paradise Road

Image

Sam Morris

The bar area at Firefly in Henderson on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

Updated Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | 11:46 a.m.

Editor's note: Firefly's spokesman originally – and erroneously – reported the hours changes and layoffs were affecting the restaurant's Henderson location. This updated story reflects the correct information.

Don’t plan a weekday lunch outing at the Firefly Tapas Kitchen & Bar location near Summerlin.

Citing a downturn in business since a salmonella outbreak rocked the local chain, the owners have reduced hours at the restaurant’s westside location, 9560 W. Sahara Ave.

The Sahara Avenue restaurant will no longer serve lunch Monday through Friday, co-owner Tabitha Simmons confirmed. Instead, it will open at 4 p.m. on weekdays.

Brunch, however, will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays, starting at 10 a.m., at the westside and Henderson restaurants, Simmons said.

Simmons said business at the eatery’s three locations — on Paradise Road, West Sahara Avenue and South Eastern Avenue — has dropped 25 to 50 percent since the salmonella outbreak in April.

“Business has been down, and, unfortunately, we have to temporarily adjust the hours,” said Simmons, who co-owns the restaurants with her husband, John.

Officials from the Southern Nevada Health District began investigating the possible outbreak April 26 when several people who had eaten at Firefly reported severe stomach sickness. The number of sickened patrons continued to grow, ultimately reaching 294.

During the investigation, the Health District forced the Firefly on Paradise Road to close after discovering 44 health code violations, three more than the minimum needed to close a restaurant.

Some of the violations included kitchen employees handling food with bare, unwashed hands and storing meats at improper temperatures.

Last month, the Health District reported the culprit: cooked chorizo, taken from the Firefly’s Paradise Road location, which tested positive for salmonella.

The genetic fingerprint from the salmonella in the chorizo, a type of sausage, had not been found anywhere else in the country, suggesting that it originated in the restaurant.

Since then, the restaurant has implemented a number of food-safety changes, including:

• Hiring a food safety expert with 25 years of experience.

• Using only certified managers and chefs to handle food.

• Conducting food-safety training for all employees.

• Starting a program to monitor the safety of food.

“We’re trying to stay positive,” Simmons said. “I think we haven’t had much of a chance yet to get out all the things we have done to transform food safety.”

The hours changes at the Sahara Avenue location resulted in laying off several employees, which Simmons described as a “devastating” outcome. The Henderson location also will no longer offer valet service, she said.

For now, Simmons and her husband hope to maintain regular hours at the Paradise Road and Henderson restaurants, she said. The Paradise Road restaurant reopened May 25 at a new location on the same road, which was a plan in place well before the salmonella outbreak happened.

Simmons said the couple is committed to maintaining food safety and hopeful that patrons will return to the once-popular eateries.

“Give us a chance to prove it,” she said. “We won’t let you down.”

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