THE owner of an Abergavenny pub fined following a routine hygiene inspection has hit out at the prosecution saying people do not know the full story.
Vasile Barbu of the Old Pandy Inn just outside Abergavenny, pleaded guilty to 21 food safety breaches and apologised to the court after an inspector found ‘foul-smelling' raw chicken and ‘rancid’ raw pork in the pub’s kitchen.
He was ordered to pay a £733 fine, prosecution costs of £1,602.40 and a victim services surcharge of £73.
Now Mr Barbu says that the inspection did not take account of the circumstances surrounding the state of the kitchen and claims he has lost customers because of the bad publicity.
A spokesperson from Monmouthshire County Council, said that a health inspector working for the county had found items of out-of-date food, unfit, contaminated and mouldy food, dirty items of equipment, dirty premises and no food safety management systems in operation when she visited the kitchen in March 2022
Mr Barbu said he was not present at the premises at the time of the inspection when series of photographs were taken of the unfit food and various other contraventions which were found by the health inspector and says that people ‘do not know the full story’.
He says that in the weeks leading up to the inspection, he was making trips to the Ukranian border, taking a van full of goods in aid of refugees.
“I was away at the time of the inspection; our community donated clothes and food to Ukraine and I was delivering them to the border. We also have a family of Ukrainians living at my flat. While I was away, we only had two staff members working - my wife and business partner who were working at the bar.”
Mr Barbu, who has run the Old Pandy Inn for six years said that the chef at the time of the inspection had been ill with COVID, so he made the executive decision to close the kitchen.
“Before I was the manager of the Old Pandy, I was a chef for twenty years. From my experience I have learnt to respect a chef’s kitchen and their environment. I was not going to touch the appliances or food without the chef’s awareness and approval.
“If the chef had been there, the food would have been checked and the kitchen would have been cleaned. Without him, no one went in there, the kitchen was locked. No food was offered or sold to customers, so there were no complaints of sickness – we are very careful about that.
“All we served were drinks. In all my years, we’ve never had a complaint about food, and I think that says a lot.”
When the inspector arrived at the premises, Mr Barbu said he was not asked before or during the inspection to explain the situation.
“I never had the opportunity to tell them what was happening. My business partner felt scared and cornered, he just let her into the kitchen. By the time I found out, it was too late.”
In the year since the inspection, Mr Barbu employed a new chef and said the kitchen is looking better than ever, “We double check everything now, and we are in a very good position, but it's been a hard year.
“No one sees the bigger picture. We work all day every day for 365 days of the year. It’s been bad with losing customers and my kids in college have been teased. It really upsets me.”
Mr Barbu said that he could understand the reservations customers had when it came to returning to eat at the pub and apologised for his misjudgement. He says he now hopes to be able to fully restore the reputation of the Old Pandy Inn in the next inspection.