Holy Sesame! A Health Department inspector has slapped B&B Empire Bagel Cafe in Brooklyn Heights with a $1,650 fine… because sesame and poppy seeds fell to the floor while bagels were being prepared during working hours. Owner Alex Gormakh appealed the decision and lost at two separate hearings.
“It is impossible to clean up after each and every bagel. A few seeds are always going to be dropped when you are dipping the bagel in the seeds. They don’t all stick like glue,” Gormakh told the New York Post. All of the code violations filed against the “Montreal style” bagel store at 200 Clinton Street were for such “incidental” grievances.
B&B uses a $60,000 wood-burning oven where bagels are baked smaller and chewier than New York-style goodies, then covered with poppy and sesame seeds. A Health Department spokeswoman told the NYP that the bagel shop was cited Oct. 23, 2011, for “a heavy accumulation of seeds in the same area that mouse droppings were found.” However, no mice were detected in an earlier inspection Aug. 1, 2011, and none in the latest inspection April 5, when B&B was awarded an “A” cleanliness grade.
Gormakh and his son, Max, have now invested close to $900,000 in larger stainless steel preparation tables in hopes of containing seed fallout, and an expensive water-filter vacuum to suck up seeds from the floor. “It is still not profitable, but it is close,” Gormakh said, who opened the store last June.
Gormakh tells the Post that he is now resigned to the higher cost of doing business in this city: “If you want to work you have to pay. In Russia, they call it corruption. Here they call it something else.”