La Carreta restaurants battle fake story about health closures
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent April 29, 2013 11:04PM
Updated: June 1, 2013 6:33AM
Merrillville — A cross-country Internet rumor about the closing of a La Carreta restaurant for health code violations has owners of restaurants bearing that name in two states assuring customers the Facebook posting is false.
It all started last week in Mandeville, La., when the April Fools edition of the Mandeville High School newspaper hit the stands Thursday with a dead-pan spoof story on the closing of La Carreta restaurant in neighboring Hammond, La., for numerous health code violations.
The story spread quickly. Hammond, La., is about 40 miles east of Baton Rouge and 50 miles northwest of New Orleans.
William Carroll, a reporter with The Hammond Daily Star tasked with investigating the numerous calls on the matter flowing into the newspaper office, said calls began coming into the office Friday morning.
The high school reporter had posted the story to his Facebook page Thursday. The posting quickly spread throughout the Hammond, La., community going so far as to impact the 10 restaurants in Louisiana owned by Saul Rubio.
Carroll said it appears the problem arose because the fake newspaper edition included a note in the publication that some of the stories were fabrications, but it was not noted on every page or on the page where the La Carreta story appeared.
By Sunday that rumor had reached Northwest Indiana, where Jamie Gonzalez, manager of La Carreta in Merrillville said the calls began to start.
“People have been calling us. What was really just a joke on April Fools’ Day is causing us a lot of problems,” Gonzalez said. The restaurant received about 20 calls late Sunday and by midafternoon Monday approximately 70 more calls. The Schererville location also has been receiving calls.
Gonzalez said his daughter showed him the posting Sunday that someone sent to her Facebook page and now the restaurant is working to get the word out that the information is not true and they are still open.
“A lot of people are helping, putting the message is not true on their Facebook page,” he said.
Gonzalez said the Merrillville location, which has been open six years, and the Schererville location, which has been open two years, has never run afoul of the Health Department. The most recent inspection in Merrillville was two months ago.
Ginger Christakis, food supervisor for the Lake County Health Department, confirmed the office has not had problems with either La Carreta location.
Some employees at the government center and some food suppliers she deals with asked questions about the Facebook posting Monday, but the department had not received any specific calls. Christakis said if a consumer ever has a concern about a restaurant they can contact the health department and find out for sure.
“This is just so unfair. It’s just spreading like crazy,” Christakis said.