A New Jersey restaurant has been shut down after police snapped photos of exotic birds and a cat living in the eatery’s kitchen.
The photos taken by Galloway Township police officers show at least three birds in the kitchen of AJ’s Cafe, including two eating a strawberry on a stack of plates, according to officials. There's also a photo of a cat by a box of bagels. In another photo, the feline's litter box is seen under a kitchen sink.
“It’s pretty disgusting,” Thomas Rivera, of Mays Landing, said.
Police say they were looking for the restaurant’s owner, Jacob Cohen, when they spotted the pets in the same area where food was being prepared. Health officials cited the cafe for unsanitary conditions after being alerted by police.
“This was something that I’ve never seen and I worked in the restaurant business for years prior to being a police officer,” Galloway Township police Chief Donna Higbee said.
A statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page issued before authorities released the photos says the animals were completely separated from prep areas and at no time was food safety compromised.
“That was more concerning even to me that he wasn’t being reputable and credible with his own clientele,” Higbee said.
The restaurant doesn’t even have a mercantile license and shouldn’t have been open in the first place, according to police.
Galloway Township Manager Christian Johansen says officials tried to work with Cohen to make sure he could pay fees required for the mercantile license and that they allowed the restaurant to open in May without it. That, he admits, was his mistake.
“There’s a little blame to go around everywhere,” Johansen said. “We are reviewing our procedures at this point in time to make sure that this does not happen again.”
A previous inspection found no animals or unsanitary conditions, according to officials.
Cohen, who recently lived in Toms River, is currently in jail for failing to appear in court on fraud charges out of Ocean County.