Al’s Breakfast better off serving food

A recent article published in the Daily provided readers with misleading information.

This letter is written in response to Justin Horwath’s article, “Al’s breakfast to renovate after health inspections” printed Tuesday.

As daughter to Jim Brandes, co-owner of Al’s Breakfast, I would like to offer some valuable insight and clarification regarding Horwath’s article.

First, it is important to recognize that the renovations scheduled to take place at Al’s Breakfast are occurring in order to meet Compliance Code Regulations. The renovations are not the result of health code violations, as the article asserts. The compliance agreement reached with the Minneapolis Division of Environmental Health and Food Safety includes renovations to update the materials used for the floor, ceiling and walls of the building.

Because the current Compliance Code mandates the use of materials that were not available during the time Al’s was constructed, a “grandfather clause” both recognized and accepted this reality. However, during the December 2006 inspection the owners were notified that the clause would no longer be effective, and thus Al’s is set to renovate by the agreed-upon date this spring.

It is also important to recognize that violations cannot be “built up” over the years, because they are consistently addressed after each inspection. When a violation is received, it must be fixed, and there can be subsequent re-inspections to make sure this is done. The examples used in the article were able to be taken care of during the actual inspection day (The article was incorrect when he claimed that the bathroom at Al’s does not have a sink). The article also fails to describe how violations are not an infrequent occurrence at any restaurant.

The unfortunate sting to the article, however, is the occurrence of his misleading and sensationalized journalism during a very critical time period for the welfare of Al’s business. The article describes four “critical” violations relating to “food contact areas, contamination, and surface design.” The effect of this deliberate language does more to negatively convey Al’s than if he had actually used greater detail to depict the nature of the violations.

In detail, amending the four most “critical” violations consists of 1) Placing the containers of eggs and bacon below the vegetables in the refrigerator, 2) Making visible the date that packaged meat is first opened (by code, meat must be used within seven days – Al’s meat is used within two), 3) Replacing the wood cutting board with a vinyl cutting board, and 4) removing meat scraps from the meat slicer (the health inspector arrived before employees had finished daily cleaning).

The article also cites 45 health violations as occurring since the year 2000. The article could have been more sensationalized if it contained the total tally since the year Al’s first opened. As is, the article seems to favor large numbers in lieu of more recent and pertinent ones.

What Al’s needs to do is meet building compliance codes. This task has everything to do with the structure of Al’s, and its ability to be cleaned.

Sadly, the article does not convey this.

Horwath originally spoke with my Dad by explaining how he planned to use the interview to write a positive article about Al’s Breakfast. Instead, he produced a negative and misrepresentative article at a time when a 14-stool hole-in-the-wall is facing a major renovation. The words “business” and “customers” provide more letters than there are even places to sit at Al’s.

This is the first time in my four years as a University student that an article about Al’s Breakfast has been placed on the front page of the Daily. This is also the first time I have ever read any negative press about Al’s, period. The combination is unfortunate.

I do not need to explain my connection to Al’s or its co-owner, Jim. Al’s stands for more than what my relationship as the boss’s daughter could establish. For my part, I only wish to demonstrate that I am proud enough to stand up for Al’s Breakfast when it is needed – bloodlines and free food regardless.

Dana Brandes is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected].