This restaurant needs to get its ducts in a row.
Some Fort Greeners are fuming after ventilation at a posh neighborhood eatery that cooks food over an open flame caught fire on Sept. 4, arguing the blaze is the latest — and most-alarming — incident resulting from owners’ failure to properly keep up the restaurant.
“They haven’t been maintaining it and it is a fire hazard, I’ve been saying this for nearly six months to nearly anybody who will listen,” said Virginia Priest, who lives next door to the Adelphi Street establishment. “And look what happened.”
New York’s Bravest rushed to quench the fire burning in the rooftop vent at South American-inspired bistro Metta at 3:40 pm after grease buildup inside ignited, its co-owner said, and extinguished the flames an hour later, according to a Fire Department rep.
Earlier this year, Priest and other neighbors blasted the restaurant’s owners for the noxious cloud of smoke its signature style of cooking sent wafting into their homes — but now, the stench is a minor nuisance compared to the possibility of more spontaneous combustion, another local said.
“What had been bothering me is the constant odor coming into our home,” said Chris Saporita, who lives nearby on Clermont Avenue. “Now, I’m concerned about the fire hazard.”
City regulations require Metta’s proprietor to scrub its ducts every three months, according to co-owner Henry Rich, who admitted the vent was weeks overdue for a scrub when the blaze started — but claimed the expert who told another outlet that the owners’ negligence caused the inferno didn’t mention that he failed to show up for a cleaning weeks ago.
And following the recent fire, Rich said the duct will be cleaned on a monthly basis to prevent buildup from burning up again.
“We cleaned once a quarter, but are now going to clean it every month,” he said.
The eatery’s proprietors, who opened their hip spot at the corner of Willoughby Avenue last year, also installed a contraption on the restaurant’s roof to help filter the stifling smoke that neighbors claim gives them headaches, and repositioned its chimney in order to blow the hot smelly air away from neighboring residences, Rich said.
“We’ve installed something that’s called a maxi-grill on top of the restaurant, it’s a $100,000 unit that filters out smoke,” said Rich. “And the top of the duct is now six feet above the roofline.”
Inspectors from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection scoped Metta out each time someone lodged a complaint about its excessive exhaust over the past year and a half, but have yet to slap it with any violations related to the smoke, according to Rich. A rep for the environmental-protection agency did not immediately return a request for comment regarding its inspections.
The eatery’s only violation came from the Department of Buildings, which slapped it with a $1,280 fine in April for construction work not done in accordance with filed plans, agency spokesman Andrew Rudansky said.