Watch: Queen St. market shut down after mice seen crawling on baklava
Meli Baklava and Chocolate Bar has come under fire after several passersby recorded mice scampering around on food in the storefront.
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Toronto Public Health has closed a food market on Queen St. W., after video posted Saturday on social media showed two mice going through treats at a candy store in the building.
Meli Baklava and Chocolate Bar came under fire after several passersby recorded the mice crawling on baklava while the store was closed.
The entire Queen Live Fresh Food Market near John St., was shut down Monday morning after Toronto Public Health inspectors identified a rodent infestation in the building.
Health officials said that they became aware of the issue Monday and immediately went to investigate. The food market has never had a complaint, warning or closure before, they said.
There are five food vendors in the building, and health officials said all are affected.
Julie Kyriakaki, one of four partners of Meli Baklava, said the mice were a problem for every vendor in the building because it was “an old building.”
She said the baklava the mice were seen nibbling on was “strictly for display,” and that they “never serve anything that’s open like that. Everything we offer to our customers is covered and protected.”
The affected baklava was disposed of immediately, she said.
Meli Baklava has been open for more than two and a half years. Kyriakaki said the store had a problem with mice two years ago, but the building management hired an exterminator and solved the problem.
It was only at the beginning of this month that Kyriakaki noticed that the mice had reappeared. She said she immediately contacted the management about it, and got new traps laid.
She doesn’t know why the problem has returned now.
“In the basement of that building, they also keep food storage from the other tenants,” she said, noting that her shop’s food is not stored in the basement.
“I know that it is an issue in many stores in downtown . . . and this is an open access building.”
All the production, distribution and wholesale for Meli Baklava is done in an inspected building in Scarborough, Kyriakaki said, and is sealed before being shipped to the Queen St. location, their only retail store.
They have a high score on Yelp, have always passed their health inspections and have never had complaints from customers about mice, she said.
Kyriakaki is frustrated that the people who took the video posted on social media first, because if she saw mice in another store, she “would go to the people who own the store and warn them.”
“We’re (a) small, hardworking family business that . . . counts every penny and it’s not easy,” Kyriakaki said. “I’m appreciative now that it came to the knowledge of the management and the health department, because it is a city building that they need to take care of. On the other hand . . . the problem is not just the store, it’s the name of our business. We’re being slandered. It wasn’t really in our control to do something about it.”
After this, she says they will no longer be leaving display food uncovered when the store is closed.
Her biggest concern is reassuring customers.
“Our product that we serve is all protected within drawers or cabinets, and everything else that we serve is always covered in the evenings. We eat it ourselves, we give it to our kids,” she said.
Toronto Public Health says the “premises is required to remain closed until the health hazard is abated,” and that further investigation “will be conducted to ensure that the business is safe to open to the public.”
With files from Alina Bykova