The coronavirus pandemic shut down Arizona restaurants for months this year. During that time, nearly every one of them moved to delivery apps like DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub or Uber Eats.
For the vast majority that meant continuing to cook out of their restaurant. ABC15 though, has learned some businesses are operating without the proper permits.
An Uber Eats driver contacted ABC15 after he says he picked up a delivery order at an apartment complex near 35th and Dunlap avenues.
Inside the apartment is Johnny Shaik, who owns Nawaz Indian Cuisine. The restaurant used to operate as a standalone business, down the street, at 19th and Dunlap avenues.
After seven years, Shaik said he recently had to close the restaurant and move to strictly a delivery model. He told ABC15 the food is cooked and prepared at a commercial kitchen in Chandler, for which Shaik present an Environmental Services permit. The food though, is being delivered from Shaik's apartment.
"We have the permit, we have the processor permit," said Shaik. "We are catering business. We cook over there and if anyone orders, then I sell from here."
The father insists he is within Maricopa County Code.
Environmental Services spokesperson Johnny Dilone is not so sure.
"This is an ongoing investigation since we received a complaint and we are following up on this complaint," said Dilone. "At no point is an operation going to be approved to be conducted from an apartment."
Dilone says, on average, Environmental Services gets 15 complaints a month regarding businesses operating without a valid permit.
On Uber Eats, the restaurant's location is listed at the apartment complex.
When ABC15 ordered food from Shaik, he abruptly canceled the order when he saw our crew.
"It definitely seems like, based on my Uber Eats order, you're cooking here," said ABC15's Zach Crenshaw.
"I don’t cook here," said Shaik.
"So it’s frozen and you heat it up?"
"Some would say that’s cooking."
"No one is allowed to cook the food at one location and then transport it to their home and sell it, and distribute it from their homes," said Dilone, who noted the temperature measure in place to ensure food safety.
Shaik is confident the county is okay with his current operation, but only his family truly knows what is happening behind their apartment door.
The good news for Shaik is that Environmental Services is about educating businesses and working with restaurants to get in compliance.
So Shaik, who is a father of four, will only be getting a phone call and not a fine.
Shaik said business has been slow and he lost a lot of money when his restaurant shut down. He is hoping to bounce back with more community support.
You can report a complaint to the Maricopa County Environmental Services investigators at 602-506-6616.