Brew Tulum Landlord Disputes Lead Contamination Claims

But co-owner Laura McNamara is fighting back with documentation of three different tests showing hazardous levels

click to enlarge Brew Tulum
Mabel Suen
Brew Tulum has been closed since early September.

The owners of the building that houses Brew Tulum, a Yucatan roastery and restaurant that has been temporarily closed since September, are disputing the eatery’s claims of lead on the site. Their rebuttal comes after co-owner Laura McNamara told the RFT last week that closure was due to lead contamination.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the building owner provided a statement saying that they “hired a Missouri licensed lead risk assessor who has identified no lead hazards relating to the building” and that the “building is in compliance with regulations governing lead.”

In response, McNamara provided the RFT with a 12-page statement that included lead testing results from Ian Saint John of St. John Environmental Consulting, a St. Louis company that specializes in identifying the presence of asbestos, lead and mold. The statement includes results from the building’s HVAC, walls and floors done on three different dates. 

Brew Tulum is located at 5090 Delmar Boulevard in the Delmar Maker District, which is co-owned by Doug Auer and Jim McKelvey, who is also a co-founder of Square. Brew Tulum’s statement identifies Auer and his Park Property Management LLC as the landlord.

According to McNamara’s documentation and previous statements to the RFT, two lead tests were performed on September 6 and September 14, the latter which McNamara says the landlord paid for. These showed concentrations of 63 μg/ft2 on the HVAC, 64 μg/ft2 on a wall and 20 μg/ft2 on the kitchen floor. 

The EPA lists its current dust-lead hazard standards as 10 μg/ft2 for floors, with a proposed rule change to 3 μg/ft2 that, if passed, would be adopted this year. 

After the September 14 test, McNamara says that the landlord paid for a cleaning of the space, but she says the firm they hired, Touch of Class, is not certified for lead abatement. The final lead testing done by Saint John on September 26 still showed the presence of lead — at an even higher level in some cases. 

According to documents shared with the RFT, walls tested had lead concentrations between 520 μg/ft2 and 29 μg/ft2 while the HVAC return had 50 μg/ft2. 

The RFT asked the building owner’s spokesperson for the dates and documentation of the lead testing mentioned in their statement and if they were disputing the results shared with the RFT but did not hear back by press time. 

Both statements from Brew Tulum and from Park Property mention that a customer had raised concerns that the Mexican pottery used by Brew Tulum could be made with a lead glaze. But McNamara says that, after being made aware of those concerns, the restaurant took action.

“Despite my husband being Mexican and despite having lived in Mexico for more than 10 years myself, neither of us were previously aware of the potential for lead contamination from handcrafted Mexican pottery,” McNamara writes. She said the restaurant replaced the pottery used for food services at the end of July.

McNamara’s concerns about lead began last July, when testing done by her son’s pediatrician uncovered a high lead concentration in his blood. However, she does not believe the pottery contributed to her son’s high lead levels, writing that since he was only one years old at the time, “he did not regularly consume food or beverages from the traditional Mexican pottery.”

This story has been updated to correct the name of the landlord and when the first lead test was performed.

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About The Author

Jessica Rogen

Jessica Rogen is managing editor for the Riverfront Times. Send her your food, arts, film, theater, music and other culture happenings.
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