Blue Note Cafe to close in Winston-Salem federal building

UPDATE: In response to an inquiry by YES! Weekly, a spokesperson for the NC Department of Health and Human Services (parent agency of the Division of Services for the Blind), said in a written statement that Warren Moore, the operator of the Blue Note Cafe, is leaving the federal building because he was awarded another location.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS, said limited vending services will remain, and that the Division of Services for the Blind will interview other operators through its Business Enterprises Program. The program provides participants who are legally blind with the opportunity to operate their own food service or vending facilities.

The new operator, who will have to pass a federal background check, will only be able to provide soups, salads, hot dogs and prepackaged items, in keeping with the original permit, DHHS said.

The DHHS statement also said that "a ventless hood system that is self-contained with its own filters" was installed in July to meet US General Services Administration's compliance requirements.

ORIGINAL POST: The Blue Note Cafe, which provides food service for the Hiram Ward Federal Building in Winston-Salem, will close tomorrow.

The seven-story building, which houses a federal court and the regional offices of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, is operated by the US General Services Administration. Since 1992, the General Services Administration has permitted the NC Division of Services for the Blind to provide food services.

The cafe has until recently provided soups, salads and sandwiches prepared on site for about 800 employees and visitors who frequent the building each day. The Division of Services for the Blind informed the General Services Administration that the "vendor will leave" on Friday, said Michael Caldwell, the property manager for the building.

Caldwell said in a set of informational points provided to YES! Weekly that the vendor's decision to close was precipitated by problems with air quality caused by the cafe dating back to at least September 2011. Caldwell said that as late as July the state division remained out of compliance with "air quality issues" and that the General Services Administration had sent the state agency a letter to that effect on Aug. 15.

According to the information provided by Caldwell, a longtime building manager for General Services Administration informed the chain of command that the Division of Services for the Blind "refused to do anything about odors" that had prompted a significant number of complaints from building tenants. General Services Administration issued a "formal cease and desist of operations till repairs are completed to eliminate electrical load problems [and] air quality issues" in March 2012, Caldwell said.

The General Services Administration Fire Marshal also made a site visit and recommended that a new hood exhaust be installed in May 2012, Caldwell said, adding that the Division of Services for the Blind agreed to the upgrade but did not complete the work.

Caldwell said that, contrary to rumors, at no point did the General Services Administration request that the Division of Services for the Blind replace the Blue Note Cafe.

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