February 23, 2007
NYC Rats Run Wild at KFC/Taco Bell
NEW YORK - A dozen rats were caught on video scurrying around the floor of a New York City KFC/Taco Bell restaurant early Friday, running between counters and tables and climbing on children's high chairs.
News crews flocked to the windows of the Greenwich Village neighborhood restaurant, which hadn't opened for the day. By midmorning, the footage was all over the Internet and television news shows, with onlookers giving a play-by-play from the sidewalk as the rodents moved about.
"He's coming for his close-up," one bystander said as a rat came near the window.
A statement issued Friday for KFC/Taco Bell said construction in the building's basement on Thursday "temporarily escalated the situation."
The franchise owner "is actively addressing this issue," the statement said, adding that the restaurant will remain closed until the problem is "completely resolved."
"Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers. This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standard," it said.
The city Department of Health had inspectors at the site on Thursday and again Friday, said department spokeswoman Sara Markt. She said the restaurant had passed inspection several months ago, with only a note of warning about "droppings."
Rats have long been a problem in New York City, with such a dense population and such a large and readily available food supply for the rodents. They are frequently scampering through subway tunnels, rooting through trash, dashing across parks and burrowing into the walls of apartment buildings.
But it is rare to see so many rats congregating in one place in such public view.
Yum Brands Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., owns the KFC and Taco Bell chains.
Taco Bell last year dealt with an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 70 Taco Bell customers. Federal officials said in December that the most likely source of the illnesses was lettuce, and Taco Bell changed its suppliers of lettuce and cheese in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.