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Firefly diners sickened by salmonella

At first glance, it seemed the recent closure of the original Firefly restaurant by the Southern Nevada Health District was just the latest in a rash of closings of prominent restaurants. But it proved to be a lot more serious than that.

According to SNHD spokesperson Stephanie Bethel, the Health District received “more than 30” complaints last week from people suffering “gastrointestinal illness” after dining at the Firefly location on Paradise Road. An inspection of the restaurant resulted in 44 demerits, and as such, the SNHD closed the popular tapas eatery. Further investigation revealed salmonella as the sickening agent, though Bethel says the conclusion is “based on patient test results, but not on food tests.”

Firefly owner John Simmons released a statement through Firefly’s Facebook page: “We have been a part of this community for 10 years and there is nothing more important than our customers. We are working closely with the Health District to find out what happened — we want to know as much as anyone else. … We take immense pride in the Firefly experience and we will do everything in our power to make it right.” To reopen, he’ll need to meet with the SNHD and then pass a reinspection.

Firefly operates three popular restaurants in the valley and has been planning to move the Paradise Road outpost just up the street. Can it win back the trust of its large customer base? Recently, many of the town’s top restaurants have been quietly closed and quickly reopened, and seem to have not suffered in popularity — but there weren’t reports of people getting sick, either. Whether people will be as forgiving of a restaurant causing widespread illness remains to be seen.