Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

State closes Peking Buffet; hearing set Friday

Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

Owners of Ruston’s Peking Buffet are scheduled to appear in 3rd Judicial District Court on Friday to show why they should be allowed to reopen after numerous violations of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Louisiana Department of Health obtained a temporary restraining order Aug. 14 to close the restaurant, located at 1300 North Vienna St.

The restraining order was issued pursuant to a Petition for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary and Permanent Injunction filed by LDH on Aug.13. Friday’s court hearing on the injunction is set for 9 a.m. in the Lincoln Parish Courthouse Annex.

“Because Peking Buffett/Peking Restaurant has failed or refused to follow the applicable mandates of the (gubernatorial) proclamations … particularly the ‘no buffet’ mandate, the state health officer has determined (Peking’s) continued operation constitutes a threat to public health, such that its closure is necessary to accomplish the subsidence and suppression of COVID-19 in order to prevent its spread,” the petition for the restraining order says.

Court documents show that despite repeated conversations with representatives of the Louisiana State Fire Marshals’ Office and LDH, the restaurant refused to consistently shut down the buffet line.

At one point, restaurant manager Zhong Xiong Wang told an LDH sanitarian that he had closed the buffet originally “but this didn’t work for him, so he had to re-open,” the petition says.

On June 25, Edwards issued a proclamation requiring all buffets or other common food stations to remain closed. That order is in place until at least Aug. 28.

On June 30, the fire marshal’s office, the agency charged with enforcing the gubernatorial mandate, received a complaint that Peking was operating as a selfserve buffet.

On July 2, fire marshal’s representative Charles Edwards inspected the restaurant and found diners in the self-serve line. He also noticed violations of the 6-foot distancing requirement between tables.

According to the court record, Charles Edwards explained the restaurant manager that employees must serve from the buffet or the buffet must be closed.

The next day, Charles Edwards went back to the restaurant; it was still in violation. The court filings say the manager said he would put together a plan to be reviewed the following day.

On July 4, Charles Edwards returned and found no violations.

Less than two weeks later, on July 20 the fire marshal’s office received a complaint that Peking was again operating traditional buffet style. The same day, LDH Sanitarian James Sims inspected the restaurant and found customers in the buffet line.

But the next day, the facility had apparently stopped the line.

On July 31, when local LDH Sanitarian Allen Hanna went to the restaurant, customers were again going through the line. That’s when Wang reportedly told Hanna he had reopened the buffet.

In a subsequent inspection on Aug. 12, Hanna also noted patrons at the buffet.

Violation of the gubernatorial mandate is punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or six months in jail.