Restaurant with history of food safety violations shuttered

No answers on the closure of the Orient restaurant on Lebanon Street in Hanover, though the business has a history of health inspection violations.

HANOVER — The Orient restaurant on Lebanon Street has closed without warning after years of problems with local and state officials over alleged grease and food safety violations.

“There have been ongoing issues with the owners and operators for a number of years,” said Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin.

Landlord Jim Rubens said Friday he could not discuss what happened to the Orient, citing a non-disparagement clause in the lease, but he said he is looking for a new restaurant tenant for the space.

Griffin said Rubens and his partner have been proactive in light of the town’s concerns, and had health and safety clauses put into the lease for their property. The building is home to several other shops and restaurants.

The Orient’s owner, Tony Chou, has been cited a number of times by the town over food safety and sanitation concerns, including the alleged dumping of restaurant grease into a storm water drain, according to records on filed with the town. Chou could not be reached for comment.

Griffin said the grease dumping problem got to the point that a neighboring business set up surveillance camera and caught Orient staff dumping the grease into a drain behind the building.

“We had repeated issues with spilled grease,” she said.

Mark Roper, Hanover’s wastewater compliance manager, said dumping grease into a storm water system is a potential federal crime, and the pollutants will make their way into rivers and streams.

“It’s a violation of the Clean Water Act, basically,” Roper said.

The matter was referred to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, though neither Griffin nor Roper knew the status of the case. Representatives from DES did not respond to a request for comment.

Hanover hires a part-time inspector to get into its restaurants at least once a year, as the state inspection regime has a backlog that can see two to three years between inspections, Griffin said.

“We like to know that our restaurants are inspected more frequently than that,” she said.