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Santa Fe sandwich shop owner says he’ll sue Health Department over holiday lunch fiasco

SANTA FE — Shannon Quintana admits he didn’t know he needed a catering license before he served food at a state Department of Health lunch earlier this month but says the department should be held partly responsible and known that he didn’t have a license to serve the gathering where dozens of workers got food poisoning.

Quintana, the owner of Kick Ass Sandwich Shop at Grant and West Palace avenues in downtown Santa Fe, said Thursday he plans to file a lawsuit next week against the DOH alleging the department is liable. A DOH spokesman has said 71 employees reported food poisoning and gastrointestinal issues linked to the food from Quintana’s restaurant.kickass

Quintana said he told DOH officials that he had never catered before, but they asked him to serve the holiday lunch on Dec. 14 anyway. He also said they asked for the chicken and steak he served that day, even though he owns a sandwich shop. The food was prepared at his restaurant before he took it to the luncheon in the Runnels Building, he said.

“I’m already accountable for this,” Quintana said. “I want them to have some responsibility for it, too. I feel like I did everything I was contacted to do. They’re the regulating force. I took it because it was an opportunity to step up for a bigger audience, and I was excited to do it. I had never done (catering) before, and when they contacted me they knew that.” He also maintained that his food “was not tainted in any way.”

While the Department of Health investigates disease outbreaks, the New Mexico Environment Department regulates food safety and has cited Quintana for not having a catering license.

NMED’s notice of violation that says a District Court judge can halt the restaurant’s food service operation or Quintana could face a fine of up to a $500. He was not cited for serving contaminated food.

DOH spokesman Paul Rhien didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday, but he told the Journal in an email last week that the department was not aware that Quintana didn’t have a catering license. “If a restaurant doesn’t have the appropriate permit, we would expect them to refuse our request to cater an event — just as anyone would expect,” Rhien wrote.

Quintana said that his business — formerly known as Bad Ass Sandwich Shop — has taken a tremendous hit since the news broke that he had been cited and that he’s been making only 15 percent of what he used to before the first news article about the lunch was published Dec. 22. “This is an absolute business killer,” he said. “I was really devastated. I did exactly what I promised them to do. My reputation is pretty much shot.”