NEW ORLEANS — Locks on the doors and windows covered by paper greeted anyone looking to grab a slice for lunch Friday at the Pizza Joint.
The Bourbon Street restaurant shut down abruptly after a tourist shot what would become a viral video early Wednesday morning.
It shows Norway rats running around on the floors and on the counter after the shop closed for the night.
An attorney for the restaurant did not return calls Friday seeking comment. The state Department of Health said its owners are working with them to resolve the problem.
But for as shocking as the video was, Claudia Riegel, who heads up the city's mosquito, termite and Rodent Control Board, says the reality is rodents do call New Orleans home.
"That is just part of our landscape,” she said.
But she says the numbers are often blown out of proportion.
"There are pockets of activity, which clearly we saw in that video,” Riegel said. “And so then that's when we start working with our partners."
One of those partners is the Department of Health, which posts restaurant reports at www.eatsafe.la.gov.
The agency paid a visit to the pizza shop on Thursday afternoon. A report from the Department of Health says inspectors found openings that were not protected against rodents or insects getting inside.
There's not much room a rat or mouse needs to get inside a building. Some rats can squeeze into a hole as small as a quarter or slip through a crack as thin as a pencil.
"They're relatively small. People often say these Norway rats are as big as a cat,” Riegel said. “That's an impossibility. Not going to happen."
Experts say the rats often use the city's drainage system to travel around, so the city baits storm drains to keep the rat population under control.
Rats will often be more common along a street such as Bourbon for one reason.
“It's all about the food source,” Riegel said.
She said you should make sure trash cans have a lid on them to make sure rats don't have a food source. Even something as a bird feeder could be a buffet for a rat or mouse.