MELFA, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- A hand-lettered sign on the door at a fast-food restaurant that has been an Eastern Shore of Virginia institution for a half-century reads "Closed for Repairs."
Next to the door of the shuttered restaurant, an American flag flew on Tuesday.
Tammy & Johnny's permit status is given as "suspended" in the latest health department inspection report online, with the last inspection date on Feb. 12.
"The permit was suspended on Feb. 13," said Keith Privett of the Eastern Shore Health District, which conducts restaurant inspections.
The action came after the health district received a complaint about structural problems, including water dripping from the ceiling in a food preparation area at the establishment, he said.
Health department and Accomack County building inspectors visited the restaurant the next day, and the county official "determined a new certificate of occupancy would be required," Privett said.
Apparently the leaking problem had been worsened by a snowstorm earlier in the year, he said, noting the officials observed several buckets on the floor, catching water leaking from the ceiling.
The fire marshal and county building inspector both determined the building was unsafe, he said.
When a permit is suspended due to an imminent health threat, restaurant owners have the right to appeal the decision and request a hearing in writing within 10 days — but the health department "received no such request," Privett said.
Among violations found in a Feb. 6 follow-up inspection, after a previous routine inspection earlier in the month, were problems with the physical plant, including that the floor behind the handwash sink was in need of repair and the roof and ceiling needed repairs.
The inspector then also found the restaurant does not have an employee, with management and supervisory responsibility, who is a Certified Food Protection Manager.
An orange sticker sealing the front door says the building is not approved by the Accomack County Building Department, with the added, handwritten notation, "unsafe."
Privett said if the owners are able to make the required repairs, the permit required to operate the restaurant can be reissued.
The restaurant's phone has been temporarily disconnected at the customer's request, according to a message heard when the number is dialed.
Tammy & Johnny's, on Route 13 in Melfa, has been serving up fried chicken and other foods since Ronnie Edwards opened the restaurant with his wife, Shirley, in 1967.
The business was named for the couple's children, Tammy Edwards Hickman and Johnny Edwards.
In addition to chicken, the place was known for its cheesesteak subs, a variation on the famous Philadelphia sandwich.
At a 40th anniversary celebration in 2007, customers stocked up on 40-cent hamburgers (limit 20 per order) and enjoyed a disc jockey, a face painter, and balloons for the kids.
When the Edwards opened their drive-in restaurant, there was no Four Corner Plaza, no Perdue Farms Inc. processing plant and construction of the Eastern Shore's first McDonald's restaurant was still a decade away.
The local restaurant scene on Virginia's Eastern Shore has changed a lot since then — with multiple fast-food chains up and down the highway and fried chicken available at convenience store chains like Royal Farms, as well.
Ronnie Edwards previously worked for C&P Telephone and once had met a man who found a successful niche selling doughnuts. Edwards figured he could do the same in 1967 with 19-cent hamburgers, fries and milkshakes.
Later, he added fried chicken. In the mid-1970s, a dining room was added.
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