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Fitchburg AMC theater continues to draw health violations, including two considered 'priority'

Wisconsin State Journal - 11/17/2022

Nov. 17—The 18-screen AMC multiplex movie theater in Fitchburg continues to draw health violations.

Public Health Madison and Dane County issued five violations to the theater Nov. 8 during an inspection, with two considered "priority."

One of the priority violations was classified under "employee heath reporting" with the inspector finding that "a few of the employees have not been informed they must report symptoms, lesions containing pus, diagnosis of foodborne illness, and situations of exposure to foodborne illness to the person in charge."

The health department ordered management to inform or retrain food employees on the required reporting of those issues.

The other priority violation was under "sanitization — chemical," with the sanitizer concentration for chlorine in "the bar low temp dish machine" at 0 ppm (parts per million).

The inspector ordered management to use test strips to measure proper sanitizer concentration and adjust the concentration accordingly, and to provide training to employees on proper use and concentration of sanitizer.

The theater, 6091 McKee Road, was closed for a few days last month by order of the public health department after an Oct. 4 inspection pointed to a mouse problem. That issue has gotten better, but isn't resolved, the inspector reported during the recent inspection.

According to the report, an inspector found one to three mouse droppings throughout concessions area cabinets and in the condiment cabinets. The droppings, the inspector noted, were in about half of the cabinets.

"This is an issue we take seriously, and as such, one we are attacking with significant resources," AMC spokesperson Ryan Noonan said in an email. "We are working closely with a third-party pest control expert vendor, which has implemented several tactics to help resolve this issue."

The inspector also found a large amount of mouse droppings under the screen in the corner of theater 1 along with chewed up insulation.

The inspection also turned up a few mouse droppings on the countertop under the Icee machine.

The report noted a few ants observed behind the upright freezer in the concessions storage room, and a large volume of drain flies throughout the bar area.

The inspector ordered theater management to correct the problem by providing proper pest control by trapping or otherwise controlling pest problems continually.

Public Health Madison and Dane County spokeswoman Morgan Finke said the reason the theater wasn't shut down this time was because evidence of rodent activity "in and of itself is not grounds for closure."

In the Wisconsin Food Code, pest violations are not categorized as priority violations, Finke said in an email.

Priority violations are defined in the code as ones that contribute directly to foodborne illness.

She said in order for pest violations to trigger a closure, all of the following would have to be observed: evidence of pests found in critical areas, evidence of harborage, amount of evidence too numerous to count, no pest control system in place.

"This closure criteria would prove that there is a public health risk and the establishment should be closed immediately, until the violations can be resolved," Finke said.

Many of these factors were confirmed by the inspector during the October inspection, but during the recent inspection, the inspector reported that rodent activity had significantly improved: "Pest control reports reviewed and only isolated incidents of mice remain in facility."

The health department conducts routine, unannounced inspections at least once a year at restaurants and retail food stores. A health inspector looks at how food is handled, the temperature of food, and the hygiene and health of employees.

Reinspections are performed to follow up on health code violations that were found on the routine inspection.

According to AMC, it's the largest movie exhibition company in the world with about 950 theatres and 10,500 screens.

The Fitchburg theater opened in 1999 as the 14-screen Star Cinema, with seating for 2,900 and at a cost of more than $5.2 million.

The other local AMC movie theater, at Hilldale, is set to close. Plans for the 35,000-square-foot building that houses the theater call for it to be converted into retail space. The theater's lease ends at the end of the year, but there's a chance it could be open longer if the lease is extended, according to an official with WS Development, which owns Hilldale.

The theater opened in 2007 as Sundance Cinemas 608, a six-screen theater concept created by actor Robert Redford. But in 2015, Sundance theaters around the country were purchased by Carmike Cinemas. A year later, AMC purchased Carmike and renamed the Madison property AMC Madison 6.


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