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Arroz Con Caca  

Wednesday, Jul 25 2007
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A handwritten note posted in the window of La Rondalla Bar and Restaurant states the 50-year-old Mission establishment "will be closed temporarily for remodeling." It turns out that this dive known for its curiously strong margaritas, blinking lights, and live mariachis has the Department of Public Health singing another tune: "La Cucaracha." Not just one cucaracha either. A whole army of roaches was found scurrying behind the bar at the June inspection.

The bar's health permit was suspended last month after inspectors found the fridges were too warm, pats of butter sat in the murky water at the bottom, and raw meat was sitting on shelves above guacamole. Defrosting chickens bobbed in the sink in the basement, where the inspector found that meat and cheese were being sliced amid the open plumbing, boxes of Christmas ornaments, and rodent droppings. More pesky vermin had bored holes in the restaurant's ceiling. "They deserve to be closed," said Lisa O'Malley, DPH's principal environmental health inspector. "I don't think anyone knew what they were doing there."

The department is making the restaurant replace outdated equipment, pest-proof the place, and make the staff undergo training in proper food handling before they'll reinstate the permit, O'Malley said.

It seems some Rondalla-haters in the Mission want to make sure everyone knows of the eatery's troubles: Copies of the 10 health code violations have been zealously taped to lampposts in past weeks. Those posted violations have been just as systematically ripped down — presumably by those with an affinity for the place.

But the closure of La Rondalla is only the beginning of the woes for restaurant and building owner Carlos Barrios, who couldn't be reached for comment. In recent years, the 24 shabby apartment units above the restaurant have become a revolving door for building inspectors responding to tenant complaints of mold, missing windows, faulty heating, bum outlets, dry faucets, and leaky ceilings — many of which have not been fixed. The Department of Building Inspection has referred seven code enforcement cases to the city attorney's office, which is mulling legal action. It's not looking good for Barrios: Angry tenants formed an association in April and plan to file a separate civil suit, said tenant leader Rich Samples.

In the meantime, the Mission is out a beloved, if cockroach-infested, watering hole and the sombrero-wearing disco ball is collecting some major dust. The public health department will vouch for the restaurant on one account: "I used to love their margaritas," said spokeswoman Eileen Shields. "I'm really kind of bummed they're closed."

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Lauren Smiley

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