SOUTH SALT LAKE — A South Salt Lake restaurant was shut down by the health department for 47 alleged violations, including slaughtering lambs in its back parking lot.

“Live sheep are being stored and slaughtered on site in the back parking lot,” according to a May 28 report on the Salt Lake County Health Department’s website about the Middle Eastern Pastry and Deli. “There was a plastic bag with sheep limbs and a sheep head in the back area.”

Some of the other alleged violations include having the kitchen in a garage, unclean cooking and baking equipment, storing food next to car motor oil and dishes being cleaned in a mop sink, according to the report. Health officials say employees were unable to demonstrate proper cleaning and sanitation procedures, and food handler cards had also expired.

Owners of the deli, 3336 S. Main, say they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

“Fifteen years ago you could grab a lamb and slaughter it wherever you wanted, because I have been doing that,” said an employee named Mike, who declined to give his last name. “I thought the rules are the same. I did, but I was wrong. They're telling us I shouldn't do it.”

He said they slaughter the sheep for religious reasons and because that's what their Islamic customers want.

He said in the 13 years they’ve been open, no one in the health department told them they weren’t operating within Utah health code standards.

The owners at the deli say they are in the process of correcting all 47 violations and they will open their doors to customers again.

A longtime loyal customer who said he's been coming to the deli for years to get groceries and meat said he didn't know this was going on, but it won’t stop him from coming back.

“It is a shock, lamb heads slaughtering in the parking lot,” said customer Corbin, who also declined to give his last name. “Things I’ve seen out of this country, not in Salt Lake City, and if there’s a place for it, it ought to be in a slaughter house.”