Home > crime, Ferndale, Food > KSLG to interview arrested cafe owner

KSLG to interview arrested cafe owner

UPDATE: Listen to the interview here:

As noted last Friday, the DA’s office arrested a Ferndale cafe owner for failure to shut down after e coli was found and the county pulled his permits.

KSLG radio’s John Matthews will interview the owner, Steve Sterbeck, Tuesday morning at 8am.  Tune in to get his side of the story.

  1. April 5, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Honestly, I kind of wish more business owners were arrested for their practices. I don’t know if there is any truth behind this one, but it did bring a smile to my face.

  2. Anonymous
    April 5, 2011 at 7:25 am

    I kinda would like Derek Bowman arrested and convicted. I have this thing against people who stab people,rob local businesses and beat women, but shucks just call me strange.

  3. April 5, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Listen now at KSLG.com.

  4. Plain Jane
    April 5, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I’m listening, but I don’t think the restaurant owners are doing much to help their case. Claiming their personally submitted water samples were clean as vindication is crazy. Equating closing a restaurant with E. coli contaminated water to the holocaust is nuts. Sounds to me like they belong in Tennessee.

  5. April 5, 2011 at 8:49 am

    They are saying they were on bottled water, even for hand-washing in the bathroom, and that Gallegos lied about that. But the religious overtones to this discussion are a little out there.

  6. Plain Jane
    April 5, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I caught that, but they didn’t say the water to the bathroom sink is disconnected, just that there’s a sign and 2 1/2 gallons of clean water. As an occasional user of public bathrooms, I know quite well how often there are no towels, no soap and no TP. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine how often there is no water in the bottle. Do they wash their dishes in bottled water as well?

  7. April 5, 2011 at 9:00 am

    they didn’t say the water to the bathroom sink is disconnected

    I noticed that.

  8. skippy
    April 5, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Yours truly listened– and was somewhat shocked. The last 4 posts sums it all up, more or less. Self-tapped well water with no treatment, testing positive for high levels of E. coli bacteria? The water system should immediately be brought up to compliance and Health Department standards. Who would even think of anything less for any eating establishment in this day and age? This is reminiscent of something from the 1930s era before public health standards were even a thought.

    One shouldn’t have to think twice about it. This is more than an improvement for one’s business, it’s about safety and major liability issues as well. Nice, well-meaning, and not very wise folks, yours truly is wishing they’ll see the light, do the right thing, and not be stubbornly pennywise and a pound foolish. They could have avoided the whole matter had they been smarter in their choices. We’ll see what the NCJ reports.

  9. anonymous
    April 5, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Damn that Gallegos. Where’s Rose’s outrage?!?!

  10. Mitch
    April 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    John Matthews: Good morning.

    Ferndale Cafe Owner: What do you mean by that? You think it’s good that I was arrested?

    JM: No. Um, I’m sorry, it was just a pleasantry.

    FCO: Well, I think we all know what you’re trying to pull.

    JM: No. Really. But never mind, let’s talk about what’s happened.

    FCO: OK. Sure. I think you *know* what happened, if you know what I mean. But I’ll play your little game.

    JM: OK. What happened?

    FCO: My divorce is none of your business, but if you insist, I have nothing to hide. Let’s face it, as we get older…

    JM: No, about the water supply.

    FCO: Do you always interrupt people like this, John? It’s really pretty rude. I’d hoped we’d get along, but I hate when people interrupt.

    JH: Um, it was quite a lovely cafe.

    FCO: Shut up, Judy. It was my cafe. It was lovely, and I’ll be the one to say so.

    JM: That’s it for now, folks. Thanks for tuning in.

  11. Goldie
    April 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Mitch, I suppose you could not resist writing that. I know I could not resist my enjoyment while reading it.

  12. Mitch
    April 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks, Goldie.

    I only listened to the new interview after writing that.

    Poor John Matthews. If you want to hear a perfect demonstration of “long-suffering,” just tune in at about 31:45, where he politely asks if the cafe owner was bringing up the Holocaust.

  13. April 5, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Tweet from the Ferndale Enterprise:

    What’s our editorial stance this week? How ’bout disgust at KIEM’s reporting on Fernbridge Cafe story and D.A.’s self-indulgent spin on case.

  14. Ponder z
    April 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Sounds like the county has a vendetta to close this family down. Bunch of incompetent assholes at the county planing dept.

  15. Goldie
    April 5, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    KIEM was a bit heavy on the toilet flushing.

  16. April 5, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    No shit.

  17. Goldie
    April 5, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    None at all.

  18. April 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    The shitty KIEM report can be heard in the KSLG interview above.

  19. Plain Jane
    April 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    And the motive for this possible vendetta, Ponder Z? Do you think they faked the water tests?

  20. Coda 4jr
    April 5, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Well, they seem like a nice enough couple, but all that christian talk is just bullshit.

    Also, if Steve Sterbeck is diabetic and too hefty to take off his own compression stockings, then a diet is definitely in order for him.

    April 6, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Christianity talk – don’t ya love religion as an excuse?

    Here is one example that kinda explains religion and marriage and trying to weasle outta a situation:

    I know a person, a very decent, kind, giving, and heartfelt human being – the kinda human being most people ought to emulate if only for understanding human potentials of being a better person. Yet, an idea was posed that resulted in a less than stellar response.

    The idea: Would a “religious” spouse support their significant other, even lie and cover-over for that significant other, WHEN the significant other has committed some haneous actions as an assailant upon another individual or the general public. Ya see, with marriage and religion, there is much to lie about to protect. The sad part is even religious, married folks will do wrong to protect their significant other spouse (AND REPUTATION) because with marriage, comes assets and legal liabilities that will destroy any family unit that is proven to create legal concerns. Hence, the whole scam with Family Law versus single people or anyone who will not aspire to the schemes being parlayed in a prejudicial manner in order to continue biases in favor of the Family Unit while discriminating against single folks. The transfer of wealth from divorces is another “FAMILY LAW” hot topic for a different discussion.

    Jokingly: Good thing any religious talk won’t be allowed in a court of law – ya know, with separation of church and state and all.


  22. April 6, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Gallegos and the news people were a bit out of line with the toilet cracks. However, this idea that there is some kind of vendetta is quite ludicrous. The Health Officials have no choice but to be this cautious. If one person were to get sick from the water at this cafe, and the Health Officials were complicit in allowing the place to stay open during this problem, then some lawyer with basic legal skills would have no trouble adding the County/City/etc. to the lawsuit. Always find the deeper pockets.

  23. Mitch
    April 6, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Personally, I like it when health officials are insistent about water quality, and I would hope lawyers would be standing by to sue health officials who were willing to compromise rules on public health.

    The Fernbridge Cafe may be run by the most wonderful people on the planet, but if they’re going to sell food to the public, I’d like them to honor the rules everyone else must follow.

  24. Coda 4jr
    April 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

    They’re not doing hungry people with no money a favor by giving them free food with a side order of diarrhea.

  25. Ernest Coli
    April 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    They are still open. Music last night with free pizza. Oh, but they aren’t saying they are open… just walk in. Same for tonight.

  26. What Now
    April 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Isn’t KIEM part of the Joef Goebbels Network?

  27. tra
    April 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    It seems like two things are not in dispute: (1) A water sample tested dirty for e coli, and (1) They were ordered to shut down and did not, and as a result, one of the owners was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. They are currently closed for business.

    In the the KSLG interview, the owners claimed that they were first allowed to stay open by using bottled water, then the next day ordered to shut down. They also stated that they never served tap water, only bottled water, because serving tap water wasn’t allowed anyway, due to the type of water system they’re on (a spring). If that’s accurate, it would certainly call into question the “you might as well drink toilet water” theme put out by the DA’s office.

    The owners also seemed to imply that they were treated more harshly than necessary (being forced to shut down, rather than just required to use bottled water for everything) because they requested a fee waiver that is available to veterans. The owner claimed that the county staffer was resistant, telling the owner that he “didn’t deserve it” though it sounds like in the end he did get the fee waiver.

    But I guess the questions most of us would have are:

    (1) Was anyone’s health actually at risk? (If not directly through being served tap water, then maybe through water used for cleaning, dishwashing, handwashing, etc.?)

    (2) Once they were notified of the bad water sample, did they continue to put anyone’s health at risk, or did they, as they claimed, take steps immediately to solve the problem?

    (3) Is the problem solved at this point, in terms of any actual health risk. If so, I guess the question is did they really have to be shut down, or required to remain shut down?

    In the KSLG interview the owners made it sound as if they had immediately solved the problem by using only bottled water for everything, fixed the problem with the water line, flushed the lines and tank and sent in a new sample, which tested clean.

    They also said that they will be installing a fancy new filter system that must meet state guidelines, and complained that the county was requiring them to have the county staff consult on the type of filter and design of the system, at (I believe they said) a rate of $160 per hour for these county services. If that’s true, I can see how that seems a bit excessive. It seems like the owners should be able to install it, or hire someone to install it, and then the county would inspect it to make sure it meets the standards (and if it doesn’t then re-doing it is on the owner, of course).

    After assuring the KSLG audience that they were going to go ahead with the expensive new filtration system (for “the benefit of all the other houses that are on that water system”), the owners sent very mixed signals about whether they intended to (or even hoped to) reopen the place. It sounds like they have another place in Rio Dell, and at one point they sounded like they were just going to focus on that. Of course a few minutes later, the wife was also saying that they might need to move to Kentucky, so perhaps they really just don’t know what they’re going to do next.

    Anyway, I hope it all works out, and that at some point the place can reopen with a safer, more dependable water system.

  28. Ernest Coli
    April 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    They were open last night for music and free pizza… but the sign said closed.

  29. Plain Jane
    April 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Didn’t they invite all their friends and supporters to a party on the Matthews interview? Color me surprised when they start collecting donations to pay for their defense and return to Tennessee.

  30. tra
    April 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Well, Jane, they aren’t promising to re-open, and they openly announced in the KSLG interview that they might have to return to Kentucky, so if their friends and supporters want to contribute to them anyway, that seems fine to me, I don’t think anyone’s being hoodwinked. Meanwhile, the guy is only facing a misdemeanor, and I think they mentioned in the interview that they have a public defender, so I don’t think legal defense funds are an issue.

    In the interview, I thought the wife came off as, well, a little bit loopy, and certainly, as she herself admitted, kinda ornery. But certainly likeable. She also showed a bit of a tendency toward exaggeration with the grandiose analogies (like the comparison to Hitler’s rise, which it sounded like she kind of realized right away was over-the-top, and she changed the subject quickly when the interviewer gently called her on it).

    I thought the husband came off as maybe a bit more grounded and with less of a tendency to exaggerate or go off on tangents, but still a bit oversuspicious and probably unnecessarily hostile toward the Health Department staff (of course if his account of the veteran’s fee waiver dispute is accurate, then there was some provocation and his suspicions of their motives and hostility towards them would be understandable).

    In general, my impression was of a couple of nice, hardworking folks, who unfortunately did not anticipate the problem and take steps beforehand to prevent there being a dirty water sample in the first place. They came off as folks who (justified or not) were pretty fed-up and frustrated by their dealings with the County bureacracy, and they obviously made a bad decision by ignoring the order to shut down. They aren’t denying that they failed to comply with the shut-down order, and the guy is going to have to face the misdemeanor charges. I just think it’s too bad that they made that mistake.

    Someone very wise once gave me this piece of advice: “There’s no point to arguing the law with a cop — save the argument for when you’re in front of a judge.” If they had closed their doors before the arrest, they’d be in the same position they’re in right now — seeking support from their friends and supporters to deal with the issues and (maybe) re-open the place, or at least get the new filtration system in place for the Fernbridge residents who are on that same water system. The only difference being that the guy wouldn’t be facing charges.

  31. skippy
    April 8, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Is this a case of Small Business persecuted by Big Government?

    “…in a recent rambling interview with KSLG radio’s John Matthews, Sterbeck essentially said he is being persecuted by Supervising Environmental Health Specialist Kevin Metcalfe, with whom he got into a dispute March 16 over a licensing fee for another business Sterbeck owns…”

    Or the abatement of serious health and safety concerns?

    “…documents indicate tests on the cafe’s water returned positive results for coliform in 2004, 2005 and 2009, with levels as much as 47 times beyond the threshold… Each time, health officials asked the cafe operators to take immediate action to address the issues…”

    “Inspection reports dating back to 2004 note flies, rotting food, greasy floors, ingredients kept in unsafe conditions and food stored on prep tables at unsafe temperatures. Numerous reports also note the presence of rodent droppings in the kitchen.”

    More details are reported by Thadeus Greenson in the Times-Standard today,
    “Documents Show History of Problems at Fernbridge Cafe; Investigation Continues, DA Weighing Charges”

  32. April 8, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Was it necessary to use the word “rambling?” it makes the reporter sound bitter over an unreturned phone call.

  33. Plain Jane
    April 8, 2011 at 8:30 am

    So they’ve been warned repeatedly to clean it up and install a water filtration system for years and now they’re whining that they are being persecuted. “Floors in bakery are very soiled; old rodent droppings present,” one report from October 2009 states, advising the operators to “clean and sanitize this area so it can be monitored for recent rodent infestations.”

    I’m shocked that they didn’t shut this filthy place down in 2009. This is too disgusting for words. E. coli and coliform bacteria in the water, OLD rat droppings and very soiled floors in the bakery. It’s making me hungry! PUKE!

  34. Mitch
    April 8, 2011 at 8:42 am

    I thought “rambling” was a precise and excellent characterization of an interview that managed to include the cafe owner’s Christian faith, the Holocaust, a singer-songwriter singing a song, and allegations of County misconduct.

    The radio interview included all that, but did not include (unless I zoned out) any reference to the length of time the cafe had been failing compliance tests (since 2004) or the logic the County used in feeling surface water was infiltrating the cafe’s water supply (explained in Greenson’s article).

  35. Walt
    April 8, 2011 at 8:47 am

    The truth is, as in most cases, they cut these folks a LOT of slack. Then they stopped.

  36. Plain Jane
    April 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I agree, Mitch. Lots of rambling, very little information actually provided. Matthews was very kind and patient with them while I was gnashing my teeth in frustration over their whining, blaming others and (IMO) lying about the chain of events.

  37. RAMDX
    April 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

    ……and to think, they dream of opening a “fine Italian eatery” once they find the financial backing.

  38. Plain Jane
    April 8, 2011 at 9:41 am

    The Angelina Inn, RAMDX?

  39. Anonymous
    April 8, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I think people would be shocked at what can be found in their own garages and attics, as well as in the back of restaurants. It sounds to me like these people tried to comply and someone wanted to make a big deal out of it and sensationalize it.

  40. Plain Jane
    April 8, 2011 at 9:49 am

    How many years does it take to get a water filter system installed, 9:44? They had 2 years and still haven’t done it. How hard is it to clean the kitchen floors and remove OLD rat droppings? What is in garages and attics has no relevance to restaurant kitchens since not many people are preparing food there and selling it to unsuspecting customers, putting their health in serious danger. “Would you like your pizza with rat droppings, no extra charge?”

  41. Goldie
    April 8, 2011 at 9:54 am

    The building is bank owned at this time, the water filtration system is $10,000 dollars and their continued occupancy is uncertain, so it seems they patch things as best they can and it is nowhere good enough to solve the health concerns.
    What I respect in these folks is their ‘can do’ continued effort to make their business work and serve their neighbors and customers. What is frightening is their lack of understanding about how seriously lacking their solution is. Doing your personal best is not enough if it does not solve the problem.

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