Molokai's iconic Kanemitsu Bakery remains closed, now for nearly four months, but the 75-year-old establishment's owner said work is nearly complete on improvements aimed at correcting health violations, and he hopes to reopen in time for the busy Thanksgiving holiday.
Work on upgrading the bakery was in its "final stage," owner George Kanemitsu said Tuesday. "I think this time it should be OK."
Kanemitsu said that the last time his business was inspected by state Department of Health officials he asked witnesses, including news media and some government officials, to be present to ensure that he was treated fairly and that it would be "very hard to find new violations."
One delay in completing improvements involved ordering a replacement door for a storage room from the Mainland, but now that has been installed, he said.
Kanemitsu said he expects by the end of this week to request another Health Department inspection, which could follow a week or so later.
Peter Oshiro, environmental health program manager for sanitation, food and drugs, and vector control with the Health Department, said Tuesday that the department was unaware of Kanemitsu's plans.
He said Kanemitsu is under no time constraints to request another inspection, although the department needs about a week's notice to arrange to fly an inspector to Molokai.
The nearly four-month closure has been difficult on the family's business, Kanemitsu said, noting that the bakery was unable to provide baked goods for a Native Hawaiian festival and for recent canoe races.
"We're talking about a lot of revenue," he said.
The bakery also has laid off nine workers during the shutdown.
The closure has been ongoing since June when an anony-mous complaint alleged that insects and foreign substances were found in bread rolls bought at the bakery. The complaint prompted a June 20 inspection that revealed "visual sighting of rodents, no water available at the rinse compartment of the sink, unclean food preparation surfaces, no soap and hand towels at hand-washing sinks, and general unsanitary conditions."
Kanemitsu made improvements and requested the Sept. 19 inspection, but at that time Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the bakery failed to address all of the June violations. She said the violations were unresolved problems.
The bakery also was ordered to suspend its operations March 7 and 8 because of unsanitary conditions. The department allowed the bakery to reopen March 9 after it had corrected the major violations.
Kanemitsu has appealed a $90,000 fine levied in March. A hearing on that appeal is scheduled for November.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.