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The Future Of Firefly
The Future Of Firefly

AIR DATE: May 16, 2013


John Simmons, owner, Firefly Tapas Bar

BY LEE HERNANDEZ -- Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar on Paradise has come under an immense amount of scrutiny after the Southern Nevada Health District shut the restaurant down for health violations.

As many as 200 diners may have contracted salmonella after eating at Firefly. The Southern Nevada Health District has confirmed 16 cases of salmonella.

Questions still remain as to whether a single food item caused the outbreak. Firefly owner and Chef John Simmons says it might be impossible to tell.

“We know less and less, it seems to me. What the health department has intimated is there really is no rhyme or reason. Every kind of thing they tried to track down has been a dead end,” Simmons says.

Since the outbreak occurred, Simmons has fielded a lot of bad press from food critics, but he insists he took immediate action after patrons got sick.

“We already have our food safety specialists on premise and training,” Simmons says. “In fact, all of our chefs and our managers and our key employees and kitchen employees are being ‘serve-safe’ certified, and in fact a couple of our key people are taking a masters class in food safety and will be certified instructors, so we’re going to have a couple of food safety professors on the premises.”

ServeSafe is a certification program in food safety operated by the National Restaurant Association.

Simmons says ensuring his kitchens do hourly food line checks, accurately keep cooling logs and execute proper temperature checks has always been a priority at Firefly and previous “A” grades on food inspections are proof.

According to the Southern Nevada Health District’s report, during the inspections at Firefly there were a number of observed violations that could have contributed to the outbreak. They included employees not washing their hands properly, employees using bare hands to handle ready-to-eat foods, improper food storage that included raw animal products stored above ready to eat foods, improper storage of in-use utensils, and inadequate cleaning and sanitizing of preparation surfaces.

Simmons does acknowledge those mistakes were made at Firefly on Paradise and he places the blame on himself.

“It’s our responsibility to serve people safe food and have my employees work in a safe environment. A few of my employees got sick, my daughter-in-law got sick and this has affected everybody, the community, our business and our customers and it’s my duty to provide a safe environment for people and I failed in that respect in this particular instance.”

Questions as to whether Firefly can bounce back from this incident have been raised, but Simmons says he thinks he and Firefly can regain public trust.

“I actually have a lot of faith in the community. I think we’ve built up a pretty good reservoir of goodwill through the years and it’s going to be hard for some people to trust us again, but I think that all we can do is all we can do. I know that there’s not going to be a safer kitchen in town and there’s not going to be anybody working harder to make sure that that happens,” Simmons says.


    comments powered by Disqus
    We all make mistakes. It's when it becomes a pattern that we need to be concerned.
    Lisa EngstrumMay 22, 2013 15:47:23 PM
    If one were to avoid all eateries in town which have gotten C,D or F (forced closure) grades since they opened, you would be eating at home every day. This is neither the first nor the worst major food born outbreak in town. Firefly has been open in town for a long time and regularly received A ratings. Their staff is always nice and the food good. I will eat at the Paradise location when it reopens without any worries about doing so.
    Paul RompelMay 22, 2013 14:57:19 PM
    some want to compare firefly to a dramatic car accident and whether you will ever drive again to food poisoning ... ridiculous ... there are soooo many safe and excellent restaurants in las vegas where you can dine instead of pondering a Firefly decision. ... for me ... never again ...
    cosmicedMay 22, 2013 14:22:27 PM
    Keep it clean, wash those hands. Such is life in the big city where the dogs bark at strangers. Bar & Bistro is happening, let Fire Fly's fly.
    TribaderMay 22, 2013 13:52:41 PM
    I have eaten at Firefly 3 times in the last 2 weeks. While the food has been as good as ever, I was extremely impressed with John Simmons and the entire Firefly staff on those visits. After listening to this interview and reading many other publications, it seems that they have been completely transparent through this entire situation despite all of the negative and even dramatically manufactured press they have received. Firefly has not only kept a loyal customer, but have shown me that there are still honest and good hearted people in Las Vegas.
    Grant BravermanMay 19, 2013 22:03:25 PM
    My family and I have been eating at Firefly for many years. The food and service has always been top notch. The staff is always friendly and always have some great suggestions. We will continue to eat at firefly once or twice a week as we have done as what happened was an accident. It wasn't something that was done intentionally and I'm sure that now they are extra careful. We are happy the S Eastern location opened as it is close to home.

    Let me give you an example: If you were driving and had an accident and got hurt or even worse hurt someone else would you stop driving? No you would get things fixed and next time you're driving you would be more careful.

    It's simple there was an accident, they are fixing things, and taking extra measures to insure this doesn't ever happen again. You don't get an 'A' rating for years because you constantly make mistakes or have accidents. I can't wait to see the NEW Paradise location where everything is setup exactly the way they want it done. One last thing, we love Sunday brunch! Best food and drink deal in Vegas! We have many friends some that we met at Firefly that we see for Sunday brunch or sometimes Sat night for dinner and drinks.

    Paul DavidsonMay 17, 2013 06:58:39 AM
    I guess it doesn't matter how many thousands of loyal customers were served over the past few years & how many millions of meals were served at Firefly & that it is yet to be revealed what/who the real culprit is. Firefly is now a victom of media sensationalism!!! The only reason I didn't eat there more often was because they were always so damn busy!!!Hmmm....wonder why? Could it be the great food, fabulous service, awesome drinks?I will be in soon....they all be back very soon. It was a 1 in a billion freak thing that will never happen again in a million years!I feel so bad they have to weather this storm.My guess is sabotage...disgruntled employee/competitor. Love you Firefly. Tell the guy with the 'ass' name that I'm stupid enough to eat there!!!
    Tom IncorvaiaMay 16, 2013 16:15:59 PM
    Yep, I agree. How long do they need to close?? Whatever it was, its surely gone now and they'll undoubtedly have the cleanest kitchen in town. Open already...I'm jonesing!
    Rolo TomasiMay 16, 2013 15:46:05 PM
    I would definitely eat at Firefly again. The owners and staff are wonderful people, and I would trust that they will learn from this isolated incident.
    Jarrad KatzMay 16, 2013 15:19:31 PM
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