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All kinds of ails at Irish pub

Decomposing rat carcasses were found in the kitchen at Downey's Irish Pub and Restaurant, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that rodent feces were found there as well.

Decomposing rat carcasses were found in the kitchen at Downey's Irish Pub and Restaurant, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that rodent feces were found there as well.

A city health inspector also found fruit flies in the bar and basement on March 16, and evidence of roaches. Downey's, at Front and South streets, was shut down after the three-hour inspection, which turned up 51 health-code violations.

"This inspection has revealed that the establishment is not in satisfactory compliance and that current management practices have allowed unacceptable public health or food safety conditions," the inspector wrote in the report.

The bar was allowed to open two days later, but Downey's owner, Domenico Centofanti - already in hot water for failure to pay back taxes - is due in court today to address the health violations and establish an agreement on how to improve conditions.

Additionally, the pub, which will be featured on a bar-makeover TV reality show later this month, must have two clean inspections before the case is closed.

The Nutter administration last week identified Downey's as one of the city's top deadbeats, owing $125,881 in business-privilege, wage, liquor and other taxes. The 35-year-old business is up for sheriff sale on Aug. 2 to satisfy nearly $2.4 million owed to Wells Fargo and money owed to the city.

Centofanti did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

Centofanti, beset by lawsuits over unpaid taxes and unpaid employees, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September.

He has also faced legal complaints from employees. Former employee Bernardo Corona alleged that he had worked 47 hours a week for nearly two months and had received just $800, a violation of wage and overtime laws. He won a judgment against Centofanti in April for $2,502, but Centofanti has appealed.

"He did it to everybody in the restaurant," said Steve Renzi, 30, a school-district teacher who was a valet parker for Downey's in 2007. "Pretty much everybody in the entire restaurant wasn't getting paid."

Renzi said that those hardest hit were immigrant workers who mostly worked in the kitchen and were paid in cash. He said Centofanti would stiff them for months at a time. Renzi added that he had to threaten Centofanti, who often cried broke around payday, that he would take him to court if he didn't receive his last paycheck.

The seemingly doomed Irish pub will be featured on Spike TV's "Bar Rescue," which features struggling bars in various cities. The episode airs July 24.

"We were drawn to the story of Downey's itself. It rose to become a Philadelphia institution under Jack Downey," said Tim Duffy, Spike TV's senior vice president. "When we heard that it had fallen into disrepair and could potentially shut down forever, we wanted to help."

As part of the makeover, Downey's received a new stove in May to replace the one that collapsed, and the pub also got a walk-in freezer to replace the former "dark, rancid, rotting" one, along with new chairs and signage.

But those changes haven't exactly turned things around at Downey's.

Bar patron Bernice Sierchio, 65, of Drexel Hill, said in an email that when she visited the pub nearly two weeks ago with a friend, she was greeted by the smell of mildew.

Sierchio said she received both a glass of water and a bourbon, which had a fruit fly in it. She and her friend left the bar soon after.

"Not only does the place owe taxes, it smells, has the poorest customer service around, but it does serve bugs with both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, what more could patrons or the City of Philadelphia ask for?" Sierchio wrote.

"Downey's used to be a great place to go," she said. "I'd never go back there."