Court action possible as Tucson pub operates without health department permit

A Tucson pub that bills itself as “the ‘Cheers’ of historic Sam Hughes neighborhood” has been operating for months without health department approval and could end up in court if the owner doesn’t fully comply with Pima County’s restaurant rules, public records show.

Bob Dobbs, a fixture at the corner of East Sixth Street and North Tucson Boulevard since 1983, has failed four health inspections in a row since July. The county has posted signs on the doors to alert the public that the kitchen does not meet health standards.

The pub’s previous health permit expired in May after the owner let it lapse, county officials said. The department said it sent two renewal notices but the owner, Scott Cummings, said he never received them.

The lapse forced Cummings to apply for a new health permit under current regulations, as if Bob Dobbs was a new restaurant.

But his application was rejected when inspectors found more than two dozen health code violations on the premises, records show.

Deficiencies identified by inspectors included multiple holes in walls and ceilings; not enough hand-washing sinks; a back door with no door sweep to keep bugs and rodents out; a wooden countertop “encrusted with grease”; refrigerator shelving “peeling and encrusted with food”; unapproved household freezers used to store food and — most significantly, in this case — the lack of a three-compartment sink for washing, rinsing and sanitizing kitchen equipment.

Cummings has since corrected every problem but one: he still doesn’t have a three-compartment sanitizing sink, and that has led to impasse with the health department.

David Ludwig, who oversees health inspectors as manager of the county’s consumer health and food safety program, said Cummings can’t qualify for a new permit until he installs the sink, but the owner said there isn’t room in his restaurant’s tiny kitchen.

Cummings said Bob Dobbs has run smoothly for decades without the sink, and said health department officials are being “very unreasonable” by insisting on one now.

“I’ve been on that corner for nearly 35 years and never had problems. Now I’m asking the health department for leniency and it’s like hitting my head against a wall.”

In August, Ludwig wrote Cummings a letter warning that failure to correct problems “could result in the case being forwarded to the County Attorney’s Office for enforcement action.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Ludwig said Cummings has made “major strides” toward fixing problems, and said he’s hopeful the owner will reconsider and take the final step toward compliance.

“It is my sincere hope that he will find the means to install the sink and then be qualified for a new permit as an accomplishment of his hard work,” Ludwig said.

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