Cops vs. Burgers

How L.A. 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 30 years, serving burgers and fries through multiple recessions and even the 1992 L.A. 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," says Nick Benetatos, who took over the restaurant in 1989 after his father retired. 

But in 2012 the city declared Tam's a "public nuisance," claiming the late-night joint was a haven for criminals. Benetatos says he is simply located in a high-crime area and has tried to work with the Los Angeles Police Department, honoring its requests that he remove pay phones on the property and tables for outdoor seating, which he says resulted in a 15 percent decline in revenues.

The city's zoning board then ordered Benetatos 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 the LAPD's electronic surveillance system. After losing a December zoning appeal, Benetatos says he is close to throwing in the napkin and closing up shop.

"I don't feel that they should be able to tell a business how to run their operations," he says. "It's hard enough being in business and staying in business, especially in this economy."  

Bonus Video: Click below to watch Reason TV's "The Fall of Tam's #6: How L.A. Regulated a Burger Stand Out of Existence."