Sardi’s free cheese ends after visit from health inspector

The New York Times reports (photo from Times, left), that the communal cheese pot — with a knife sticking out and some crackers – was a tradition at bars like the ones in Sardi’s in the theater district.

Now, after a health department inspection that complained about “food not protected from potential source of contamination,” the communal pot is gone.

Other bar-food staples like peanuts and pretzels in little bowls? Sardi’s has taken them off the bar, too.

“It has to do with the health department,” said V. Max Klimavicius, the president of Sardi’s. “It’s gotten to the point that the way they’re applying the health code is so rigid, we can no longer have what we always had. The way it is now with the health department, as they say, a good inspector has to find violations. They come with flashlights and look in every corner.”

“It’s just mind-boggling,” he said. “Nobody’s happy.”

Pat Wolgemuth of West Chester, Pa., said, “How long has it been going on, serving cheese, and nobody got sick?” she asked.

Susan Craig, a health department spokeswoman, said that leaving food on the bar for different parties was a violation. “You shouldn’t have nuts or pretzels or definitely not cheese out at the bar,” she said. “You can be served new appetizers, if you want to call them that, but that can’t be left out” for the next person who comes in.

She denied Mr. Klimavicius’s assertion that inspectors are under pressure to find infractions. “Inspectors are trained to look for things that could put the public health at risk,” she said.