The Fall Of Tam's #6: How LA Regulated A Burger Stand Out of Existence

Located on the corner of Figueroa and 101st Street in South Central Los Angeles, Tam's Burgers has been a part of the neighborhood for almost thirty years. Nick Benetatos took over the restaurant in the late '80s after his father retired. Tam's has withstood multiple recessions and even the 1992 LA riots.

"When the markets were burned down, liquor stores were burned down, everything was burned down, people had nowhere to go, they came to us. We were handing out loaves of bread for free." says Benetatos. "We have much love for the community. And the community obviously has much love for us."

But Tam's is now facing its most daunting challenge yet: being deemed a "public nuisance" by the city of LA. The Los Angeles Police Department believes that Tam's is a magnet for drug dealers, prostitutes and violent criminals.

"It has a nexus and a connection to a disproportionate amount of criminal activity," says Detective Eric Moore, head of LAPD's Nuisance Abatement unit. 

But Benetatos says that he is simply making the best of a tough situation. He's even tried to work with LAPD before, honoring their requests that he remove payphones on the property and remove tables for outdoor seating, which he says resulted in a 15 percent decline in revenues. The city's zoning board has since ordered him to comply with 22 separate conditions, such as hiring a full-time security guard, fencing in the entire property and installing a security camera that links directly to LAPD's electronic surveillance system. Benetatos says that the cost of compliance would put him out of business.

"The LAPD wants to control my business and run it in their view of how it should be run, and I'm trying to run it in the view that I've been here for 30 years and know how it should be run, and I'm successful," says Benetatos, who appealed the zoning board's conditions at a recent city council meeting.

Entrepreneur vs. LA's city government: Who will prevail? Watch Reason TV's video above to find out.

About 5 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Tracy Oppenheimer, Sharif Matar, and Weissmueller.

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  • Paul.||

    "The LAPD first approached Benetados in 2010 and asked him for his assistance to help them reduce crime around the area."

    I trust Benetados has learned a very valuable lesson: When a clipboard wielding agent of the government comes to your door and wants your assistance and partnership in some sort of community effort, you slam the front door on their face and set the dogs on them.

  • MoreFreedom||

    The city council is punishing someone providing the fine example of producing jobs and services for the community, because of criminals around him.

    It seems to me, the ones who should be punished are the city council members who are unable to police the community and prevent the crime in the first place. Crime not being committed by Tam's burgers. After all, the City Council is attacking a non-criminal, instead of the criminals. That means they are siding with the criminals, all the while saying they are for law and order. What a bunch of slime balls in the City Council.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Good point. He should say "maybe the fact that my business is constantly surrounded by criminals is YOUR failure not mine" and he should throw a "motherfucker" in there somewhere.

  • ||

    @Fiscal Meth LOL! This is why I love reading the comments here -- so uplifting in a world full of dumb.

  • Paul.||

    LAPD Mouth of Sauron:

    "Our initial goal is voluntary compliance, under no circumstances to we want an adversarial relationship"

    When a clipboard wielding agent of the government tells you that their "initial goal" is voluntary compliance, you know exactly what their secondary goal is should you decline.

  • Monty Crisco||

    "Our initial goal is voluntary compliance, under no circumstances to we want an adversarial relationship"

    Our secondary goal is INVOLUNTARY compliance...

  • Alan||

    Eric Moore is one evil son of a bitch. "Mouth of Sauron" is right.

  • sarcasmic||

    This is how the government grows the economy: by shutting business down.

  • Paul.||

    If the police can't control the crime in the neighborhood, they just kick out the residents. It actually seems like logical plan when you begin to dig into it.

    When the corner where Tams sits becomes deserted, who will be there to report crime?

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm sure the city officials are extra proud of themselves that they have shut down a business and put people out of work.

    What's the point of having power if you can't ruin lives?

  • Juice||

    And why didn't city pay for the security guard, fence, and surveillance system?

  • Paul.||

    It's a regulation. The EPA doesn't pay for your soil erosion mitigation, why would the Po-lice pay for your crime erosion mitigation?

  • Alan||

    Besides, the city government is out of money. They've been paying Eric Moore and his ilk nice fat bonuses from the money they have stolen from places like Tam's, and they have spent so much that they are out of money.

  • XM||

    When Nick Benetatos starts voting libertarian from now on (or maybe the GOP), 70% of Latino voters will still elect a Latino / democrat around LA, minimum.

  • Sevo||

    You left out the Anglos who will also continue to do so since the Dems care about the little man.

  • DarrenM||

    You left out the Anglos who will also continue to do so since the Dems care about the little man.

    Little women, not so much.

  • Patriot||

    There are several major truths that libertarians ignore when talking about immigration policy. Firstly, the vast majority of people's income is spent on necessities (as least we like to think of them as that) that are produced not by man but by nature. Food, land, gasoline, electricity, produced from coal or natural gas, iron, copper, ect, ect. Libertarians think that all the wealth of society is "produced" by "producers," when, in reality, most is exploited from the planet. This exploitation creates a great amount of environmental problems. Wheat is not "built" by anyone. It is dependent on land, of which there is limited supply, as even the craziest libertarian must admit, and oil to create the fertilizer required for it, as well as iron, copper, and other materials for the machinery. This does not mean that innovation cannot happen. Indeed to produce wheat has required great strides in agriculture, developed by innovators. Innovators allow us to exploit more resources from the planet. However, the majority of people are not innovators, and the vast majority of NAM immigrants, and NAM natives, are not. A true discussion of innovation will require the use of the 'I' word. (continued in comment)

  • Patriot||

    The goal of innovation, of course, should be sustainability, requiring both population and consumption and production to be static, and have the impact on the enshrinement to be as little as possible. So far, though, the goal has been to trend toward massive demand through the importation of more parasites from the third world, more environmental destruction, which is ultimately unsustainable. If we continue upon our current path we will have a billion people, massive deserts, oceans to acidic to support life, high prices for food, land , and oil, and probably a socialist revolution, as people won't be apt to tolerate a white minority living in luxury while the black and brown masses suffer.

  • Agammamon||

    Yeah, uh hey moron - innovation is, by definition, a breaking of the status quo. It facilitates changes in population, consumption, and production.

    Innovation is the exact opposite of what you claim to want.

    And if we are so dependent on pre-existing "resources" (never mind that much of what we consider a "resource" now was so much useless garbage and/or pollution in the past) then why does immigration matter. The people were already there, the resources were already there - no net change.

  • Agammamon||

    "The goal of innovation, of course, should be sustainability, requiring both population and consumption and production to be static, and have the impact on the enshrinement to be as little as possible."

    So, you're saying that this is it? We should insitute draconian reproduction laws to control the reproduction rate of americans. No new medicine, no increasing agricultural efficiency, computers must not ever get faster or have more memory.
    Because if sustainability requires that population, consumption, and production remain static then that's what we'll have to do.

    Reproduction boards to prevent or force people to have children.
    Technology boards to decide if a line of research is socially optimal.

  • Patriot||

    No, not yet of course. We should make population and consumption static in the way that they no longer do great damage to the environment. Population growth among the lowly parasites is not desirable. Mass consumption of resources that pollutes the environment still further is also not desirable. That doesn't mean it should end it, we should attempt, however, to minimize environmental damage, save resources, and develop new technologies to make ourselves more sustainable. As for your straw man tripe, no. We need more efficiency.

  • Sevo||

    Patriot| 12.20.12 @ 8:53PM |#
    "We should make population and consumption static in the way that they no longer do great damage to the environment"

    Do the world a favor; jump off a high bridge.

  • dinkster||

    Maybe you can join Ted Turner on fantasy island.

  • Patriot||

    Yup, prohibiting immigration is "fantasy." It has never been done before, ever. We can never reduce the damage to our environment. That time the government stopped the release of chlorofluorocarbon never happened. We can never develop science outside of corporate labs. Ever. I learned it on a libertarian website so it must be true.

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    It is dependent on land, of which there is limited supply...

    We should make population and consumption static

    7 billion people divided by 2.379 billion acres in the US alone means everyone in the world can exist in the US with a population density of 3 people per acre of land (and their home garden). That leaves the rest of the world availble for 'exploitation' and efficiency.

    Your argument doesn't quite fit the numbers.

  • Patriot||

    I wasn't aware you could have a garden on mount McKinley. You probably plan to destroy it so you could have the minerals underneath. It would take a nuke to destroy it, and the radioactivity would be there a long time. But you wouldn't care. Anyway I don't want to live like a third world savage on a small area with a "garden." I like living in the United States of America.

  • Patriot||

    "The people were already there"
    You don't understand what the term "immigrant" means, do you? And more resources for them means less for Americans.

  • Sevo||

    Patriot| 12.20.12 @ 8:43PM |#
    "The people were already there"

    Do the world a favor, you sleazy asshole. Commit suicide. Those with a brain cell will thank you.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You are not entitled to anything that you do not already own.

  • Patriot||

    "You are not entitled to anything that you do not already own."
    Tell that to our little brown brothers after they vote for more socialism. Do the oil companies "own" the atmosphere?

  • dinkster||

    Latinos are the minority demographic most likely to change sides and begin voting Republican. Shows what you know.

  • Patriot||

    "Latinos are the minority demographic most likely to change sides and begin voting Republican."
    I can pull facts out of my ass too. For example, Iowa is the state most likely to experience the next large flood.

  • Sevo||

    Patriot| 12.20.12 @ 5:41PM |#
    "There are several major truths that libertarians ignore when talking about immigration policy. Firstly, the vast majority of people's income is spent on necessities (as least we like to think of them as that) that are produced not by man but by nature."

    No, you sleazy shit, those are not 'truths'; they're lies. You're an ignoramus who really shouldn't parade your stupidity across the web.
    Please, reduce the world's population; go kill yourself. The world's IQ will show an immediate improvement.

  • Patriot||

    Classic Sevo argument. Like how you responded to my eugenics plan, I'm sure you didn't even read it.

  • Agammamon||

    Yeah, because libertarians trust government so much we'll be interested in anything with the eugenics label.

  • Patriot||

    Did you read the Plan?

  • Teaching Student||

    Why the hell would we read a Eugenics Plan?

  • Patriot||

    I try to read your crap. Just goes to show how "open minded" you people are. In a presidential debate, you guys would just say "you're a filthy collectivist." to everything your opponent said. Then you'd honestly wonder why you lost.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    You make an excellent case for removing undesirables from the gene pool. Just not in the way you think.

  • Sevo||

    Patriot| 12.20.12 @ 8:08PM |#
    "Classic Sevo argument. Like how you responded to my eugenics plan, I'm sure you didn't even read it."

    Ya know, there are ignoramuses who are not worth spending one second reading.
    YOU are one of those. You're so stupid, I'm amazed you can type. Your stupidity is not registered on the IQ spectrum; there are no negative numbers available. You're a stupid shit who deserves what ever insults can be heaped upon you.
    Go away, you sleazy pile of pig shit. Is that clear enough?

  • Agammamon||

    Uh how much land (a resource) that is used to produce a unit of wheat has decreased significantly over the course of human history. Its called "efficiency", a product of *human ingenuity* - the same ingenuity which is behind the vast increase in living standard over most of the world (not, as you seem to claim, simply harvesting more resources).

    You want to see the result of an economy that increases solely through increased input rather than increased efficiency - look at the 70 year existence of the Soviet Union.

  • Australian||

    Que shithead's response below.

  • Patriot||

    Much of "efficiency" is at the expense of the natural world. I did mention increased efficiency, saying that it was a noble goal, but I don't see how NAM immigrants make anything more efficient. And harvesting more resources has been the reason for that increase, most of it anyway. More oil, land, iron, copper, ect. This will have an effect on the environment, and it's not sustainable unless we develop technologies to make it sustainable, and implement those technologies, we will run out of everything that our society depends on. Immigrants don't help that. Cutting science funding doesn't help that. Encouraging parasites to reproduce doesn't help that. Allowing polluters to pollute doesn't help that. Even if we develop technology to stop the release of CO2 into OUR atmosphere, what is to guarantee that they will implement it? They only care about money.

  • Australian||

    Even if we develop technology to stop the release of CO2 into OUR atmosphere the atmosphere that we didn't produce and are only exploiting to environmental detriment, what is to guarantee that they will implement it? They only care about money.

    As Sevo would say, FIFY shithead.

  • Sevo||

    "As Sevo would say, FIFY shithead."

    'Preciate it; couldn't have done it better.
    Piles of shit worshiping the mud momma deserve whatever abuse can be heaped upon them.
    This asshole would have stopped development in 1776 if his stupidity had taken root. And his stupidity is sufficient that he can't even figure that out!
    Hey, ya know, kindergarten is a tough class!

  • Patriot||

    "Piles of shit worshiping the mud momma deserve whatever abuse can be heaped upon them."
    You know what they say about the earth. Love it or leave it.

  • Sevo||

    Patriot| 12.20.12 @ 8:38PM |#
    "Much of "efficiency" is at the expense of the natural world."

    Do the world a favor; commit suicide. You're a stinking pile of pig shit.

  • MoreFreedom||

    Hey Patriot, since your necessities are produced by nature, please go back to nature so we don't have to hear you complaining about your contributions to pollution and exploiting the planet. That means giving up your computer, phone, electricity, automobile, etc. And while you're enjoying nature, be sure to not exploit it by building shelter, killing plants/animals and exploiting them for food. And if you get ill, don't dare exploit nature looking for natural medicine.

    Your post points out the good side of such an approach. You'll have less impact on nature, no need to deal with high prices (or money) and you'll be immune from any revolution.

  • Patriot||

    Reducto ad absurdum is really all you guys have got. Taking a tree branch off of a tree is the same thing as heating the world up and acidifying the oceans, and permanently destroying thousands of species. Besides, I want to live in the first world, that's the whole point of not letting population grow so fucking much and sending our wealth overseas.

  • Tom Wolff||

    "There are several major truths that libertarians ignore ... "

    Wow. After that IGNORANT first sentence, it all went "rolling downhill like a snowball headed for Hell."

    After having the audacity to attempt to divine what THIS libertarian thinks, the rest of your jumble sounded like a cross between the Communist Manifesto and some dirty ecoNazi pamphlet left lying in the gutter after an Occupy protest.

    Oh, why did I read that?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Private property is private property. Fuck LA's intrusive cunts with a fire poker.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Because FUCK YOU, that's why.

  • uythsb||

    Merry Christmas to you 2012.

  • mwoss@ca.rr.com||

    This is probably the same thing they did to OKI Dogs on Santa Monica Blvd years ago since a lot of runaways and drug users congregated there.

  • The Derider||

    I've aten at this tams, and can confirm that it is both delicious and a magnet for drug dealers and prostitutes.

  • ||

    So, what's not to like?

  • Monty Crisco||

    That was a depressing little documentary of government social engineering...

    And "Patriot" is like some weird hybrid of an ignorant, militant environmentalist and an ignorant, militant white-supremacist...strange....

    Two shit tastes that taste like SHIT together!!!

  • Ron||

    "installing a security camera that links directly to LAPD's electronic surveillance system"
    Now thats scarry how long before the police require all businesses to have a video camera linked directly to the police station, Big Brother, you are here.

  • MoreFreedom||

    I wouldn't be surprised if LA regulates them out of business, only to be replaced by a Burger King with an owner who's already putting campaign cash into the city council's pockets.

  • Disgusted Dem||

    The whole thing did have the feel of an extortion shake down. As the list of requirements kept growing, I was imagining the LAPD asking itself, "When is this guy going to get a clue and start providing us with free burgers?"

  • Teaching Student||

    Feel? It was a fucking shake-down.

    I think I'm gonna take some time next week to drive up there and get a burger while I still have a chance.

    This video really is bothering me. More-so than a lot of the other crap we see.

  • Robert||

    That's how it seemed here. They couldn't seriously believe they were doing anything useful, inasmuch as the burger joint didn't create crime, and at worst merely concentrated crime from the immediate neighborhood into its vicinity -- just because they drew people, including criminals. So they must have just not wanted to take the chance of a bribe solicitation's being recorded, and waited for him to take the chance of taking that move first, which he declined to do.

  • DarrenM||

    Of course, now with Tam's out of business, all those "drug dealers, prostitutes and violent criminals" will just disappear.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    A greedy zoning board pig has his eye on the property.

  • joesierra68@yahoo.com||

    Tearing down a business and depriving a family of their livelihood won't bother the crooks, drug dealers, and prostitutes they'll just move to another location of South Central.

  • uythsb||

    Merry Christmas,NBA 2012

  • Alan||

    The LA Zoning board and the LAPD cannot be this stupid, so they must be evil.

    Seriously - he's right in the middle of a high crime area, so his restaurant is responsible for that? Either prove it or shut up. If he's not responsible for the crime but is an oasis of sanity in a troubled area, they should copy whatever he is doing.

    I will be glad when these bastards don't get their pensions after the LA government goes broke. I hope they all live long miserable lives as homeless people. In fact, can we write it in law that Eric Moore and the members of the LA Zoning board must be homeless, and not allowed to possess more than one shirt and one pair of trousers?

  • Ted123||

    Trust me. They will get their pension.

  • chenyan||

    i like

  • Ted123||

    Nice job LA. Less jobs, less tax revenue. No wonder the whole state is going to shit.

  • tom@vexea.com||

    You know, those jails happen to have fairly high densities of criminals within their walls. And they're all... criminal-y and what not. Maybe the LAPD ought to do something about those nexus next?

    Oh, what's that you say? Correlation is not causation? Imagine that.

    Even by the ridiculous standards of your average shakedown, this one really seems to top the cake. Truly sickening.

  • JWOW||

    Its not your customers, its the city's citizens that are causing problems. I'd sue the city to clean up that neighborhood which they have obviously failed to do and are now trying to blame the local businesses! They are simply going to create a wasteland with far, far more crime than what was there. Don't sit back and let the government take your property and shirk their own responsibilities.

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