DC
05/31/2013 01:58 pm ET

Cosi, Cited With 17 Health Violations, Forbids Reporter To Look Under Its Tables

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WASHINGTON -- From the annals of PR disasters, a new winner. After being cited for rodent droppings and 16 other health violations, the Cosi at Metro Center has forbidden WUSA9's Russ Ptacek from looking under its tables, calling the inquiry "unwarranted" and accusing the investigative reporter of causing "a great deal of distress."

The incident comes shortly after D.C. Health inspectors deemed the restaurant an "imminent health hazard," with violations ranging from undersized sinks to chicken and other comestibles being stored at improperly high temperatures.

Upon visiting the establishment with a videographer in tow, Ptacek was told to leave the premises immediately. Later a regional manager followed up with an indignant email, which went viral after Ptacek posted it to Facebook.

"We would appreciate it if you do not disturb our customers, partners and management team with unwarranted investigations," wrote regional manager Yasmin Contreras in a email that was later shared on Facebook 140 times and reached an audience of 20,000. "Actions such as looking under our furniture or asking questions aggressively do a great deal of distress towards our customers and our Cosi team."

A part-owner of Cosi has since apologized for the letter, and a brief Friday visit from The Huffington Post was handled very differently. "Feel free to take a look around," local manager Lu Story said upon HuffPost's arrival. "The Health Department came in. They inspected us. They gave us a clean bill of health. We were able to satisfy any of the violations they saw previously."

He declined to allow the Huffington Post to take pictures of him or interview customers, things which he claimed as a franchise he was not licensed to allow. He did, however, invite HuffPost to look for mouse droppings under his tables.

"Help yourself," he said with a wave of his hand.

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