Workers at an Upper Manhattan Chipotle restaurant say they’ve been fighting a losing battle against hordes of hungry rats — and a management team that let the infestation get so bad that four staffers have been bitten by the massive rodents.
The besieged fast-casual Mexican joint on Broadway near West 169th Street in Washington Heights closed to customers indefinitely late last month, but only after rats chewed through the wiring of a computer system that handled orders, two employees told The Post.
In the meantime, those workers are still going into the store to clean, in an effort to keep the vermin at bay.
They say they’ve killed dozens of the rodents by stomping on them, smacking them with broom handles, dropping boxes on them and various other medieval methods of extermination.
“It really started to take a toll on us,” said Melvin Paulino, a three-year veteran at the store who was bitten by a rat last Friday while cleaning. “We’re all scared, it’s pretty common that some of my co-workers will just start screaming out of the blue and we don’t know what’s happening.
“It’s pure chaos every time a rat appears.”
The location, just one block north of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, is currently listed as having an “A” health rating from the city — though a Department of Health spokesperson said a rodent complaint was submitted on Nov. 30, and a written letter was issued the next day.
The DOH also said an in-person sweep would be conducted Tuesday by both a restaurant inspector and a pest control expert.
The rodent invasion began near the end of the summer, the employees said.
Avocados would suddenly have small nibbles taken out of them, and workers would find holes in bags of rice where the critters had chewed through the packaging.
Eventually, they discovered rat droppings in the store’s basement and in boxes of food.
“All of the workers had horror stories about the rats, especially some of the women who would change before and after work in the back of the store,” said Luis Gustavo Paulino Ruiz, another store employee who was recently bitten.
He said he notified management of the issues, as did other workers, but nothing seemed to change, at least right away.
Meanwhile, the rats became increasingly brazen and seemed to be multiplying.
Employees were forced to move avocados into the cooler, and some workers even refused to set foot in the basement for fear of a rat attack.
The first employee was bitten in October, but the store remained open for at least a month until another rat chomped the hand of the store’s general manager on Nov. 23, workers said.
After a closure of a few days for cleaning, the store reopened, but workers were still afraid of the rats, which had apparently grown fat off of the constant supply of food.
“The whole situation seemed crazy to us, we definitely felt it was incorrect to keep the store open while all of this was happening,” Paulino Ruiz said.
About a week later, the ordering system went down and the store was forced to close indefinitely, the workers said.
“A company as big as Chipotle shouldn’t be worried only about the amount of money they’re making, and leave their employees to keep working under dangerous conditions,” Paulino Ruiz said.
“This whole thing made me realize that these companies really don’t value people, they just want you to work no matter what. As long as they’re making money, they don’t really care what else happens.”
Chipotle disputed the characterization in a statement.
“The health and safety of our employees and guests is our top priority,” said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s Corporate Affairs and Food Safety Officer.
“The Columbia Presbyterian restaurant located at 4009 Broadway in New York has been mainly closed since November 23rd due to a pest problem affecting the immediate area,” Schalow said. “During this time, we have arranged an emergency pest service and deep cleaning and are working with the landlord directly to ensure location improvements are met before reopening.”
This isn’t the first Chipotle to develop problems with a big city rodent population.
Another of the burrito chain’s locations in Brooklyn Heights came under fire from a resident’s association in 2018 after several rats, allegedly the size of small house cats, were discovered rooting through the store’s trash.
A year earlier, video captured rats falling from the ceiling of another Chipotle restaurant in Houston. (NY POST)