Health department warns Beech Grove wine and tapas restaurant not to open without approval

Bistro owner has history with health department

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Marion County Public Health Department has cited and posted a “closed” sign on a Beech Grove restaurant amid health and safety concerns.

Health officials say Wines from the Vines, a wine and tapas bistro café located at 4850 S. Emerson Avenue, intended to open without submitting the proper operation plan to the Marion County Public Health Department’s Food & Safety division.

Food establishments must submit a plan to the health department for a full review and approval, which can take up to 30 days, according to spokesperson Curt Brantingham.

If and when the health department approves the plan, the agency issues a license and charges the applicant a fee.

On July 31, health inspectors found Wines on the Vines intended to operate and posted a closure sign on the door. When health inspectors rechecked the bistro, the health department’s closure sign was gone and so the agency placed another “closed” sign on August 1.

“We are monitoring the business to ensure it is not operating,” said Janelle Kaufman, administrator for food and consumer safety at the Marion County Public Health Department in an email to RTV6. “If they are found in operation they will be closed, cited and a monetary citation will be issued and/or court action.”

When Call 6 Investigates stopped by last week, signs in front of Wines from the Vines advertised wine slushies and mozzarella sticks.

“We now have sangria and Moscato winesicles just $2 pure wine,” read the bistro’s Facebook post on July 2, another Facebook post advertised an Aug. 11 wine and canvas event

The owner of Wines on the Vines, James Jones, had a history with the health department at his previous restaurant called Romanza of the Vine located at 8810 Southeastern Avenue.

On January 31, a health inspector closed the Southeastern Avenue facility and cited them for operating illegally without submitting plans and getting approval from the Marion County Public Health Department, said Kaufman.

When the health department visited Romanza of the Vine again on March 13, they denied the restaurant’s request to open because the equipment did not support the menu submitted.

Documents show health inspectors cited numerous concerns including improper plumbing, improper food equipment including a homestyle refrigerator and coolers without thermometers.

Romanza of the Vine made corrections and was approved to operate on March 16 with a limited menu, according to the health department. However, the health department closed the facility on May 2 because Jones had not yet paid the license fee which was due on April 6.

After the health department received the license fee from Jones on May 7, the health department inspected once again on May 9 and found serious violations at Romanza of the Vine.

Health inspectors found improper reheating of food, workers not washing their hands when handling food, workers using camp stoves without proper ventilation, a plumbing system in poor condition, and coolers missing thermometers.

Records show the landlord filed an eviction notice in Marion County’s Franklin Township small claims court against Jones on July 6.

James Jones initially agreed to an on-camera interview with Call 6 Investigates, but has not yet provided one.

In a phone interview with RTV6, Jones said he moved his business voluntarily to get more customers.

“I never wanted to be in that location because it’s too slow,” Jones said. “There’s not enough foot traffic  A businessman is going to move to where he’s going to make more revenue.”

Jones denied opening illegally at either location, and said he had a soft opening at Romanza of the Vine for family and friends in January.

As for his new restaurant, Wines from the Vines on South Emerson, he said he wasn’t planning to open without the proper permits.

“I’m not in operation,” Jones said. “The restaurant is not open, and I don’t plan to open it until I have my permits like I did at my other restaurant.”

Following the health department’s closure notice, Jones submitted plans to the health department for Wines from the Vines.

The Emerson Avenue location can’t operate legally until the health department reviews the plans and issues a license.

“I’m just waiting on the permits to come through,” Jones said. “I had a lot of people basically trolling me that didn’t like me, so I think they’re tracing me everywhere I go and are trying anything and everything they can to get me shut down.”

Jones said he did not realize he had to submit new plans when he changed locations.

“I thought they would just go wherever I go but I had to reapply that's why I took everything back down off of my website and put ‘coming soon’,” said Jones in an email to RTV6. “I'm new in the restaurant industry and I'm learning just like anybody else would. I thank you for your time but I will conclude with this email.”

Jones has not yet applied for an alcohol permit at the Emerson location, according to the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission. Records show Romanza of the Vine did have a beer and wine retailer license approved in March.

ATC spokeswoman Lindsay Hyer said a new permit would be needed at the Emerson Avenue location.

A Google Image search shows a food picture on the Wines from the Vines website is the same image used by Olive Garden’s catering website.

The Marion County Public Health Department says they have not received any illness complaints about either location.

“This operator was explained to at length about the procedures and requirements for operating a restaurant with his first location that was opened illegally,” Kaufman said. “There is no way he is unaware of what the requirements are, he is just not following rules which is a serious problem.” 

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