On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.
Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.
A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.
“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant.
According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:
Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.
Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.
The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.
Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.
Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”