BALLWIN, MO (KTVI) - Appalling conditions at a popular West County restaurant prompted the fire marshal to shut it down immediately. All customers had to leave.
A sewage backup at El Maguey on Manchester Road covered the basement floor with inches of contaminated water and waste.
Meanwhile, business was going on as usual, until an unrelated fire alarm went off in the building, and West County firefighters stumbled upon the unsanitary mess.
Cell phone video taken by West County Fire Marshal Dan Bruno shows toilet paper and other unappetizing waste floating across the basement, while customers dined upstairs without a clue.
Bruno recalls, “Employees were trying to squeegee solid materials into adjacent drains, but a number of them were still walking through it, up the stairs to other parts of the restaurant.”
The fire marshal quickly contacted county health department officials, who ordered all contaminated equipment and food to be sanitized or thrown away.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before, and I think the St. Louis County Health Department officials at the scene, they were equally as shocked,” explains Bruno.
The raw sewage was discovered around 7:30 Tuesday night, and had been flowing at least since that morning when a drainage company came to assess the problem.
FOX 2 caught up with one of the restaurant’s owners, Francisco Limon, while he and his employees were hard at work cleaning up.
When asked why he would continue to operate his business with sewage on the floor, he hesitated and answered, “I wasn’t here.”
But the manager was. And Limon says there will be no repercussions: “She’s very inexperienced, and I don’t think we’re going to have any consequences. It’s just one more experience in the restaurant business.”
The sewage, shockingly, wasn’t the only violation the fire marshal found. The dirty water was flowing over electric appliances. Nearby, unrefrigerated buckets of sauce and a tray of chicken sat right next to a bin collecting dirty, dripping water.
Bruno explains, “As it dripped into those buckets, it was splashing out on food that had been prepared and was waiting to be served.”
Since that night, El Maguey has been “closed for maintenance,” as stated on a big white board outside the front door. Still, dozens unaware of all this showed up for dinner, and were shocked to learn why they were turned away.
One customer says, “Yeah, that’s a little bothersome,” while others said they would go to another nearby El Maguey instead.
No word as to whether the owners’ two other restaurants, in Wildwood and South County, will now be inspected, but health and fire department officials say that the Manchester Road restaurant will be closed as long as necessary, until it’s back up to sanitation code.