City takes business license of grocer in Park Heights Health department uses the rare action after neighborhood complaints

December 11, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

In a rare disciplinary action, Baltimore City Health Department officials permanently revoked the business license yesterday of a Park Heights grocer who has come under fire from the community for racking up dozens of health violations.

The ouster of Eun Mu Lee, owner of Canaan Food Outlet, has become a rallying cry for a community that says it is fed up with store owners who think they can sell substandard food because the neighborhood is low-income.

"This is not just about Canaan Food," said Karen Banfield Evans, who heads the community organization Northwest Baltimore Corp. "This is going to be a wake-up call for all stores to clean up their act."

Since September, Lee has been cited for several violations, including selling inedible deli meats and decomposing pasta, and storing unrefrigerated eggs in a bathroom.

After residents complained that the store smelled of rotting meat, Lee voluntarily closed the store for a day to fix health code violations. Health inspectors shut the store the day before Thanksgiving when more violations were found.

"This is the first time in four years that we have revoked a license," said Dr. Peter Beilenson, the city health commissioner. "It was that egregious."

Beilenson said the ruling took effect immediately. Lee can appeal the decision to Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Lee could not be reached yesterday. His attorney, Eugene J. Silverman, would not comment on the case.

Health inspectors will go over the inventory at Lee's store, at Park Heights and Hayward avenues, and determine what needs to be discarded and what can be resold. Lee also owns a grocery store in Woodlawn.

On Friday, the health department held a hearing that sought to revoke Lee's license. Health inspectors alleged that Lee would not correct major violations. His attorney alleged that health department officials were bowing to neighborhood pressure to close the store.

Yesterday's verdict was hailed by several residents. Jean Yarborough, one of the activists who wanted to see the store closed, said she wants to start a citywide board made up of merchants to police store practices.

"Hopefully we can raise the standard of living in Park Heights," Yarborough said.

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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