BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Lexington Market will reopen Saturday after the iconic food hall abruptly closed Friday following video showing a rat crawling on cakes and cookies inside a bakery case.
Milton Mitchell recorded the rat on Thursday and told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren he was surprised at the reaction.
“I just put it on Facebook. I never thought it would go viral like that,” Mitchell said. “I looked in the case and said, ‘Wow! Look at this big rat!’ I pulled my phone out and recorded it. I felt like the public needed to know.”
The city’s Health Department closed Buttercup Bakery, whose manager told WJZ the rodent came from elsewhere in the market and inadvertently jumped in the case. He said the baked goods were all thrown out and the stall was disinfected.
Lexington Market’s management made the decision to close the facility just before noon Friday, and after an emergency meeting with more than 80 vendors, announced they would open again for normal hours starting Saturday morning.
“This is the worst nightmare for any food establishment,” said the market’s communications manager Stacey Pack. “We’re in a very busy city, and we have a dozen doors that lead to and from the inside of the market.”
She said a pest control company treats the property at least twice a week and performed inspections and further treatments after the rat video surfaced.
“We have taken every necessary precaution. We take this very seriously and are working hand-in-hand with our pest control company, our merchants, our staff, and — of course — the Baltimore City Health Department,” Pack said.
The market, which has been on the same site in some form since 1782, is owned by the city and run by a nonprofit board. In 2016, the city announced it would raze the current market and build a new glass structure in an adjacent parking lot, but no ground has been broken on the project.
Nancy Faidley Devine has been a fixture at her family’s seafood business there for more than 50 years. She lamented the closure as a financial hit to the many small businesses in the food hall and showed Hellgren some of the 500 crab cakes her staff had prepared for the Friday lunch rush before the emergency shutdown.
“You have one incident happen, and it’s big news,” she said. “I think there are a lot more important things going on in the world today.”
Faidley Devine, whose family first opened their famed seafood and crab cake restaurant in 1886, says she feels the video got blown out of proportion and was isolated.
“If there were two or three or five of them — but so far, there was just one little guy that got loose,” she said.
She added that she was ready to open her doors to many people who come from around the country for her crab cakes.
“It is unfortunate. It’s perception more than anything,” Faidley Devine said.
As for Mitchell and his viral video, he said he hopes it brings change.
“Something needs to be done about Lexington Market,” he said.