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October 31, 2014

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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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  1. Imagine that.

  2. Lax management contributed to the outbreak. In the years I managed or owned restaurants, never once did I get a report of a patron being made ill. I repeat: not once. My workers knew better than to cut corners and I was careful to see they did not. And I led by example. I never cut costs on the things that mattered such as food quality, cleanliness or service. I looked to cut costs on things such as to-go-items: plastic forks, styrofoam cups or napkins, but not on basic ingredients used in preparing signature dishes. I told my suppliers, if they were out of a certain product I used, do not substitute. I'd rather temporarily have it off the menu then change the recipe. Consistency was a big deal to me and the customer was "King;" not the bottom line as is the case with many businesses today.

  3. Good luck to them. I support local business.

  4. An unfortunate situation for all affected. That said, the new Paradise location is wonderful, and I hope they can weather the storm and emerge as a better and more successful enterprise.

  5. Lunch specials to encourage people to come back!

    The new location is bigger right? Not as crowded! Good!

    I'll stop by for lunch sometime this week.

  6. I will never go there especially after finding out that the samonella was created by their poor food handling practices. The number of health code violations and the fact that there have been problems before speaks volumes. Only now, after a huge amount of people got ill do the owners seem to care to get it together. They have had the opportunity and warnings before from the health dept and CHOSE to ignore it. They are just lucky to have had no fatalities result although from what I read, many suffered for many days.

  7. For what it's worth, Kim, I visited the original Paradise location 380+ times over the decade it was open, and never had a single problem. That is not meant to negate the legitimate experience of anyone who was affected by this recent issue, but my experience "speaks volumes" as well.

  8. It has been almost 2 months since this occurred. At this point, are you in the media just trying to destroy these people? I mean they screwed up bad, and are trying to fix problems and move on. The unemployment rate in this city is high enough without the media attempting to bankrupt another business. This is just as bad as the "pink slime" reporting a few years ago.

    Dozens of restaurants in Vegas get shut down ever year. I read about them every week on the "Dirty Dining Report" and never see the Sun or RJ post article after article for weeks on end and then seemingly gloat about the business' financial troubles.

  9. Spartacus - people are much too sheepish. They follow like sheep over a cliff.

    They don't see the obvious 44 points for what they are - Health Dep't covering their behinds.

    I'm going to try out the new place this week.

  10. Sure, let's blame the "messenger." There would have been no reporting at all had not management screwed up by not being watchful. I, for one, want as much information as I can get about business establishments so I can make an informed decision as to whether or not to patronize them. It's particulary important when my health is at stake as it is in choosing restaurants and grocers. On the bright side, this kind of bad publicity may make others in the food industry take extra precautionary steps to avoid a similar incident and that's good for all of us.