VINELAND - Health officials charge Mori's restaurant violated a "blanket embargo" placed on its cold foods after the eatery's power was shut off last month for alleged nonpayment

City Health Department Director Dale Jones said inspectors found "there were items missing" from the restaurant's refrigerator and freezer after power was cut to the eatery on Sept. 20 and 21.

Food items placed under a blanket embargo must remain where they are or be either moved or disposed of under the supervision of a Health Department official, he said. That did not happen, he said.

Jones said the department filed a complaint in Municipal Court against the restaurant's operator, Lou Ferretti. The case is scheduled to be heard at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, he said. Ferretti faces fines of between $250 and $1,000, he said.

Ferretti could not be reached for comment.

Jones said Health Department staff was eventually on hand to watch the restaurant discard cold foodstuffs. He said he did not know what the restaurant threw away.

City police said the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility, which is the municipally owned power company, shut off power to Mori's on Sept. 20 after the restaurant allegedly failed to meet the requirements of a payment agreement. The restaurant owed VMEU more than $18,000, police said.

Police said they went to Mori's, which is at Landis and East avenues, on Sept. 21 and found the power was restored after someone cut the padlock that secured the eatery's main service panel. VMEU again shut off power to the restaurant and padlocked the main service panel, they said.

City Municipal Utilities Director Joseph Isabella said the restaurant used about 8 kilowatt hours of power after the electric was turned back on, police said. Isabella said the cost of that power would be calculated at a later date.

Mori's is attached to the Landis Theater and Performing Arts Center. VMEU sends the restaurant's electric bills to the Landis Theater Foundation, which oversees the building. City officials said Ferretti, and not the foundation, was handling the electric bills for Mori's.

The $18,000 in back electric bills are not the only thing Mori's is allegedly late in paying.

The restaurant also owes the Landis Sewerage Authority more than $7,800. The restaurant further owes the municipality about $103,000 in late Urban Enterprise Zone payments.

Mori's and the Landis Theater are part of the so-called Four Corners project that was to turn the intersection of Landis and East avenues into an economic gateway to the downtown business district. The projects were built with at least $4 million in UEZ money, which comes from state sales tax revenue, city officials said.

Vineland Mayor Ruben Bermudez said the city's legal department is considering what action it can take to recoup the money.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197