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Barbecue restaurant's spotless record tainted by roaches

Willard's BBQ Junction owner takes immediate action after rare incident

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's not unusual for roaches to crawl their way into News4Jax's weekly Restaurant Reports.

But for one barbecue restaurant in Jacksonville's Lakeshore neighborhood, it was a rare incident and one that has the owner shocked and frustrated.

Willard's BBQ Junction on San Juan Avenue, which had a spotless health record, was shut down temporarily after a health inspector found seven live roaches and 15 dead roaches. 

The discovery of live bugs in the kitchen led to an emergency closure being ordered last week, and led to Willard's BBQ Junction owner James Willard taking immediate action.

Willard was clearly unhappy about the uninvited pests when he spoke with News4Jax by phone. 

"We consider ourselves clean freaks," Willard said. "For that to happen, you feel totally violated by the pests themselves, then the publicity you get from it."

Willard was transparent about what he's done to get rid of the bugs. New cans have replaced the mesh bags the restaurant previously used to store dirty linens. 

The owner believes that's what attracted the roaches to crawl in from the back door.

"The linen baskets, at the time, had mesh with holes in it," Willard said. "So what we've done is we've taken care of that and we've got them sitting in garbage cans now with lids on them."

As of Thursday, the restaurant was back open. But Willard said it's frustrating to have his restaurant's spotless record tarnished.

According to state records, Willard's BBQ Junction has met every inspection since 2015. 

"We have never had a write-up for even one bug, ever," Willard said.

He admitted the recent incident was an oversight. He said he'll continue to stay ahead of the game and stomping out the pests to keep good reviews pouring in on Facebook from happy customers.

"We invited anybody, at any time to come back," Willard said. "If they're not feeling comfortable, to walk back and check for themselves."