Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst Board of Health votes against reinstating College Pizza’s food establishment license

By Stuart Foster

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(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)

The Amherst Board of Health voted unanimously against reinstating College Pizza’s food establishment license, which has been revoked since Jan. 28, at a weekly meeting at the Amherst Senior Center.

College Pizza’s food establishment license was revoked after Ed Smith, the Amherst health inspector, saw Mishu Fam, who had previously been banned from preparing food in College Pizza for endangering the health of the restaurant’s customers, working at the store alone.

“I want businesses to thrive in Amherst, but I also don’t want the health of people compromised,” said Nancy Gilbert, one of the members of the Board of Health.

Basem Fam, the owner of the Fearing Street restaurant and Mishu’s brother, said that he had closed down College Pizza for the winter while visiting Egypt, his country of origin. However, the sudden death of his uncle and his three-year-old child’s contraction of pneumonia prevented him from opening the restaurant.

The owner then contacted another certified chef, Daryl Bouchard, telling him to open the restaurant early to prevent the business from losing money. Basem said that Bouchard had Mishu watch over the store for five minutes when he went to pick up his daughter, without Basem’s knowledge, when Smith arrived to inspect the restaurant.

Smith said that Mishu falsely identified himself as Basem’s cousin instead.

“I don’t know why he was in the back or even in the store,” Basem said at the meeting. He told the Board of Health that, while he was planning to sell the store regardless of whether the food establishment license is reinstated, the store would have little value to sell without that license. “The money’s my kids’ money,” Basem said, referring to the three children he said managing College Pizza supports. “I don’t want to lose it.”

Julie Federman, health director of Amherst, said that in March 2015, the Amherst Police notified her that Mishu, then an employee at College Pizza who was being investigated by the police, was behaving in “a very unsanitary manner in the food establishment.”

Federman, rather than shut down College Pizza at the time, decided to give it another chance, under the agreement that Mishu would not be allowed back in the store. “I got this phone call saying there’s something weird about College Pizza in November,” Federman said.

Federman said that police footage recorded in November 2014 showed Mishu Fam preparing a sandwich while practically naked, appearing to touch his penis twice before touching the sandwich again. The police footage also appeared to show Mishu taking off a condom and dropping it on the floor, urinating in the kitchen sink, smoking a cigarette in the kitchen and dropping a utensil on the floor before picking it up and continuing to cook with it.

The police also reported finding a bed, sex toys, marijuana and alcohol in a small room behind the counter in College Pizza. “The public health side was pretty egregious,” said John Tobiason, a member of the Board of Health. “It’s shocking to me that you would not have made clear to your manager that Mishu could not come to the store.”

Basem, who had come to the meeting directly after his flight from Egypt, said that his brother got off track and began making errors of judgement after moving to the United States from Dubai, where he worked as an accountant for three years.

However, he said that Mishu was now studying to obtain a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Massachusetts and was working on improving his behavior. “This guy is my brother,” Basem said. “I have to give him a chance.”

The members of the Board of Health said that while they felt bad about denying Basem’s appeal, the food license was out of the question due to Mishu’s presence in the store. Smith noted that College Pizza always passed the sanitary inspection and that he always considered it clean, even when he found Fam’s brother there.

Federman said she was unsure whether College Pizza’s tobacco license would be affected by the removal of the business’s food license, and that she would contact the town council on Wednesday to see if it is still in place.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at Stuart_C_Foster

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story identified Julie Federman as Julie Marcus. It has since been corrected.

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