Sioux Falls restaurants are cleaner after COVID, inspectors says

It was apparent to Dominic Miller that Sioux Falls restaurants used their time during the height of the coronavirus pandemic well.

The public health inspector, now Sioux Falls public health manager, was one of six inspectors evaluating Sioux Falls’ 700-plus restaurants and grocery stores on a bi-annual basis.

Restaurants had shut down dine-in eating in the spring of 2020. Many restaurants filled their employees’ time by cleaning to avoid layoffs and prepare for the eventual return of customers, Miller said.

“It was actually very refreshing,” Miller said. “The restaurant industry really took the time to clean. You could see how they pulled the equipment out and did some deep cleaning throughout the establishment. You immediately knew they’d used their downtime well so they were ready again when customers came back.”

Manager Marilyn Schmidt fills a bowl of tomato soup for a customer on Thursday, September 2, 2021 at Camille's Sidewalk Cafe in Sioux Falls.

More:See how Sioux Falls restaurants scored on recent health inspections

That effort has bled into 2021 inspection reports, with an average inspection score of 97.5 out of 100 across the city, Miller said. Only one restaurant failed its inspection this year, compared to five failed establishments last year, too.

Doing a deep clean has made it easier to continue that routine this year, Miller said. Not only that, but restaurants have heath and cleaning at the top of their minds because of the pandemic.

Health inspector Zack Van De Rostyne measures the potency of a cleaning solution during a routine inspection on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 at Camille's Sidewalk Cafe in Sioux Falls.

Mikael Engebretson, assistant general manager for Blarney Stone Pub in downtown Sioux Falls, said the restaurant laid off 45 employees during the beginning of the pandemic as they switched to a to-go only model. After opening back up to customers, workers made sure to enhance cleaning efforts across the entire restaurant with sanitizer stations and other pandemic precautions.

Blarney Stone usually gets high scores on inspections — 97 in 2021 and a 96 previously — and the restaurant staff holds “high cleaning standards,” Engebretson said.

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