The Hong Kong Buffet in Auburn Plaza on Grant Avenue has closed, about a month after its latest unsatisfactory inspection by the county health department.
Tim Kerstetter, property manager of plaza owner Auburn Associates, said the restaurant closed in early July.
According to Cayuga County Health Department inspection reports, Hong Kong Buffet was owned by Shao Yan Zheng. Kerstetter said Zheng decided to close the restaurant after Auburn Associates approached her about its most recent unsatisfactory inspection, which took place June 8. The inspector noted 1 to 2 inches of "active sewage overflow," requiring closure of the restaurant until it was reinspected June 9. Kerstetter said the overflow, which also affected neighbor Subway, was caused by Hong Kong Buffet staff dumping fryer oil into its drainage system.
Meanwhile, Kerstetter said, Zheng had been asking Auburn Associates why her restaurant wasn't attracting more business. Kerstetter then approached her about Hong Kong Buffet's latest unsatisfactory inspection. When Zheng indicated she was unable or unwilling to improve the restaurant's cleanliness, Kerstetter asked her to close it, he said. He admits Auburn Associates "pressured" Zheng into closing, but added that she would have been allowed to remain in the plaza if she changed her business such that it could pass inspections regularly.
"She couldn't keep up on standard cleaning," he said. "People are reading these reports."
Zheng declined to be interviewed by The Citizen.
Kerstetter said Zheng has been running the restaurant for about a year and a half, and assumed the lease from a prior owner. He said Auburn Associates was never notified of the transaction.
Kerstetter said Auburn Associates is planning to move a current Auburn Plaza tenant into the Hong Kong Buffet space, then move a new tenant into that current one's space. He declined to identify the tenants because lease agreements have not yet been signed.
Four Chinese restaurants remain in Auburn: New China Royal on Genesee Street downtown, Sakura Buffet on Genesee Street on the city's west side, China Wok on Seminary Street and Spring Garden on Owasco Street.