Hot dog stand might get its day

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By Pat Faherty

FLORAL CITY — Pudgee’s All American Hot Dogs, the small eatery with the big following, may have an opportunity to remain open.

A Citrus County fire official was expected to meet with owner John Sterling today for another inspection to help get the roadside restaurant into compliance.

According to the Citrus County Sheriff/ Fire Inspection, Sterling needs to install a fire suppression system over his grill, an improvement the owner described as cost-prohibitive that had not been required when he opened the business in 2001.

He was given a time period to comply, which prompted his decision to close down Dec. 29.

According to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Heather Yates, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation lodged a complaint the Citrus County Fire and Rescue Department was obligated to pursue.

“We did that for safety purposes and made a recommendation for Pudgee’s to get up to code,” Yates said. “If we get a complaint, we follow up on it.”

She said it was not their intention to shut the restaurant down and Deputy Chief of Fire Rescue Jim Goodworth would meet with the owner Friday to help get him into compliance.

According to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations, Pudgee’s is currently licensed as a mobile food dispensing vehicle. It was last inspected Nov. 8, 2012, and “met inspection standards” according to the department’s website. It was previously inspected April 12, 2012, with the same result.

However, during the Nov. 8 inspection, Pudgee’s was cited for having electrical wiring in disrepair — a violation, which Sterling showed was promptly corrected. However, he believes it triggered the subsequent fire inspection.

Goodworth explained there is a process in place and the fire department is notified by email when those types of violations are found.

Sandi Copes Poreda, director of communications with the Department of Business and Professional Regulations, said via email, “The Division of Hotels and Restaurants is required by statute to notify the local fire departments and the state Fire Marshal of these types of violations on a weekly basis and would have notified the local and state fire authorities of this inspection in early November.”

She added, “The Division did not have any direct contact with local law enforcement about this establishment.”

“We will see what we can do to help them remain open,” Goodworth said. He has scheduled an inspection for Friday and hopes to meet with Sterling at that time.

Since Sterling posted the closing date on a roadside sign, there has been an outpouring of support for the small family business, as hot dog lovers came in for what could be their last visit.

“It was crazy here. People came out in droves from all over the state,” Sterling said Thursday afternoon, and he was still gearing up for a possible big finale on Saturday.

Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or pfaherty@chronicleonline.com.