FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After being shut down in August 2015, House of Hunan reopened under the name Hunan Express. With new kitchen equipment, new kitchen floors, a new to-go order counter and a new name, the owners hope this will also be a new start.
“I wanted to stay open. We remodeled and I wanted to stay open,” owner Eddy Shih told 15 Finds Out.
“It’s a fresh start and I hope they take advantage of it.” – Steve Schumm, Allen County Health Department
House of Hunan used to be riddled with health code violations. 15 Finds Out first reported on the restaurant’s struggles in our restaurant review investigation in October 2015. It was one of four restaurants that stood out as habitual violators. Shih told us then that he was working on the violations, but it was a lot to get done all at once.
But, then another routine inspection in March 2016 found 31 violations, 21 of which were repeats. After three follow-up visits, one with a translator hired by the health department, and no significant changes in violations, the owner had to meet with the health department.
“He had to put a plan in writing for how he was going to correct those violations. We went back again and it was not corrected and the next step was a hearing and that’s when the complaint came,” Steve Schumm, the director of food and consumer protection for the Allen County Health Department, said.
A woman found a cockroach in her to-go order of cashew chicken and called the health department. House of Hunan was shut down in August 2016. Then the same owners filed to open under a new name, Hunan Express in October. The restaurant reopened in January 2017.
15 Finds Out asked Schumm if he was concerned that the history of violations would repeat itself with the same owners.
“If behaviors aren’t modified, we’ll find out and if we have to move forward toward a hearing process, we’ll do it just like we would for any other establishment,” Schumm said.
For five months, House of Hunan went through a remodel to become Hunan Express. Shih said everything was moved out of the kitchen to put in new floors and there’s a lot of new kitchen equipment. They also added a to-go counter and changed the entrance.
Schumm hopes this reset will keep the restaurant in compliance.
“That was a lot of work put into the establishment, so not only did you clean, you had architects and contractors and there’s new staff there too,” he said. “It’s a fresh start and I hope they take advantage of it.”
Shih says he changed the name to Hunan Express to reflect the new area aimed at a lunch crowd in a hurry.
“I go to something very fast. A lot of people, all these people have just one hour to eat,” he said.
You can still see the outline of the ‘House of Hunan’ name showing through the new Hunan Express signs and Shih said he might change the name back.
“Other people tell me ‘Why you change it?’ They probably thought I changed the owner,” Shih said.
He said he knew a lot of his customers and he blames the name change for empty seats. But, he’s hopeful that will turn around soon and he’ll be able to keep the restaurant he’s had for 35 years open.
Hunan Express had to have zero violations to open in January. It hasn’t had another routine inspection yet, but it’s on the inspector’s calendar.