Why A Failed Health Inspection at a DeKalb Restaurant is a Political Story

Arizona’s Steakhouse at Stonecrest, where a 21 will bust you.

The Arizona’s Steakhouse at Stonecrest Mall just got a 21 on its health inspection.

It takes effort and dedication to get a 21. Either that, or a health inspector who is playing for keeps. Every time I drive by the (now-closed) Chico and Chang’s on Ponce, I remember the 68 score from 2016 that more or less killed that location. A 21 will annihilate most restaurants.

Yes, it’s cover-your-eyes awful. It’s also weird, in the political spidey sense of the word.

About six years ago, a South Carolina businessman with local ties, Eric Robinson, was indicted on bribery and racketeering charges in connection to local scandals involving former commissioner Stan Watson.

Robinson and former South Carolina State University board chairman Jonathan Pinson were charged with bribing public officials to steer government contracts in their direction. Stan Watson at first denied any involvement in the case, then half-assed a release of a “redacted” phone log that ultimately showed he had been calling Robinson regularly. I wrote about it at the time.

Pinson was convicted on 29 counts and sentenced to four years. (He started his prison sentence last April.) Robinson, however, was acquitted of all charges.

Eight months later, Robinson was found dead in a Hilton Garden Inn hotel room at Stonecrest. Apparently he died of a heart attack, or maybe sleep apnea, or something no one in the media bothered to follow up on five years ago.

Why does any of this matter?

Robinson was a partner and general manager at Arizona’s. Pinson and the registered CEO of Arizona’s Steakhouse at Stonecrest, Mark Craig of Greenville, S.C., are business partners in a restaurant in South Carolina and may be partners at the Stonecrest operation as well, even though Pinson is in a jail cell today. I haven’t gone through the DoJ’s asset forfeiture summary of Pinson yet.

The restaurant was and is a popular place for DeKalb politicians to hold fundraisers, in no small part because of Robinson’s involvement. One might wonder if the restaurant had been given a bit of immunity from the regular inspection process as a result.

So, what happened? Perhaps the health department accidentally-on-purpose sent an inspector who couldn’t be bribed. Perhaps this is a brushback pitch by someone with something to lose. Or perhaps the sight of kitchen flies in 100-degree weather was just too much to take.

I am making no accusations here, of course, of either the restaurant or the DeKalb health department. I’m simply saying that, given the context, I hope the media chooses not to let this be a one-day story and starts asking more interesting questions.

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Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

I remember incompetence with the phone record release. I had lost respect for Watson years before, when as DeKalb delegation chair he demonstrated he couldn’t manage an e-mail account.