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United By Blue at 3431 Walnut St. on March 18, 2021. Credit: Ana Glassman

United By Blue closed from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9 after a City inspection found 13 health code non-compliance violations, including rodent and insect droppings and a dead mouse.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued a cease operations order to United By Blue, located at 3421 Walnut St., on Jan. 3 at 12 p.m., according to a sign posted on the door of the coffee shop. The order required the business to discontinue food operations and vacate the premises until the violations were corrected and approved by the department. The store reopened on Jan. 9 after addressing the violations.

In response to a request for comment, the Department of Public Health responded with a link to the Jan. 3 inspection report. 

The inspection report included evidence of mouse droppings along the floor perimeter in the prep and warewash area, on counters, and on shelving units, including those holding the single-use cups. A dead mouse was also observed on a glue trap in the warewash area. The report also found several instances of negligent employee cleanliness practices and food residue, in addition to inadequate ventilation and foodborne illness risks.

Employees did not demonstrate adequate knowledge of the Philadelphia Food Code, failed to wash hands properly, and neglected to wear effective hair restraints, according to the inspection report. Dried food residue was observed inside the microwave oven, and coffee residue was found on the counter in the prep area. Code-violating dust was also discovered on light fixtures in the prep area, the report noted.

Various food items — including raspberries, cream cheese, liquid eggs, tomatoes, milk, and cheese — were being kept at incorrect temperatures, posing foodborne illness risk and requiring public health interventions. 

The Department of Public Health cited United By Blue’s failure to satisfy Title 6, Chapter 300 of the City’s code on ‘Food Establishments.’ The Jan. 3 inspection was serving as the reinspection following various health code violations found in a report from Nov. 7, 2022

Three days after the cease operations order, a second reinspection of the coffee shop found five repeat violations and one new violation, where the business was ordered to continue its indefinite closure “due to imminent health hazards.” 

The Jan. 6 reinspection report found continued evidence of rodent activity in an increased number of places, including near the ice machine and the equipment storage rack. The account also noted dust on the wall above the freezer, chipped paint in several places, and damaged flooring in the prep area. Foods such as yogurt, mango, milk, and tomatoes were also being kept at inadequate temperatures, presenting the threat of foodborne illness.

A third reinspection on Jan. 9 allowed the coffee shop to reopen, though three repeat violations — noncompliance in the proper construction of prep area handles, presence of a self-closing toilet door, and installation and maintenance of physical facilities — were detected by the health department.

United By Blue first opened its University City location in October 2014 and serves drinks, pastries, sandwiches, and apparel. The business operates one other location in Philadelphia at 205 Race St.