State Inspectors Shut Down St. Paul Grocery Store, Arrest Owner

Updated: 07/18/2014 10:24 PM By: Todd Wilson

Hamza Abualzain
Hamza Abualzain

A St. Paul grocery store owner was arrested, and his store was shut down by the state because of bad conditions.

Inspectors say they found rat droppings, standing water and contaminated food at West Side Groceries.

34-year-old Hamza Abualzain is the owner. In a December 3, 2013, inspection, numerous violations were found, including raw food not stored separately from ready-to-eat food. Abualzain was given six days to clean up.

When state inspectors returned on December 10, 2013, they didn’t find a clean store. Instead, they found rat droppings and dirty surfaces that food makes contact with. He was ordered to clean up again.

Finally, July 10, 2014, inspectors went back for a third time and found Abualzain had no license to operate his business. They found food contamination and misbranded meat. The store was shut down.

Former customers talked about their experiences at West Side Groceries.

"We bought milk down there before, and we’d bring it home, and it was spoiled," one customer said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS went to Abualzain's house in Columbia Heights, but no one was home.

Abualzain faces four misdemeanors ranging from neglectful food handling to neglectful food safety. He is out on bail.