California

In the Face of Arrests, City Barricades, and Revoked Permits, This California Saloon Fights for Its Right To Reopen

For months, the owners of Tin Horn Flats have refused to comply with restrictions on their business.

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Baret Lepejian has taken the wild west theme of his restaurant in Burbank, California, to heart. For months he has refused to comply with pandemic restrictions, even in the face of mounting sanctions.

In December, Lepejian reopened his family-run Tin Horn Flats Saloon for outdoor dining as a self-described "peaceful protest" against Gov. Gavin Newsom's Regional Stay at Home order, which required restaurants to cease onsite dining for close to two months.

"I'm going to lose my business anyway….So fuck it," he told Eater at the time.

Lepejian was hardly alone in refusing to comply with Newsom's regional stay-at-home order. Across the state, business owners have said they'd keep their doors open, whole towns have refused to comply with the directive, and sheriff's departments have said they wouldn't enforce it.

What makes the Tin Horn Flats case unusual is the degree to which both the Lepejians and the city have been willing to go to war.

Almost immediately after the restaurant reopened, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health suspended Tin Horn Flats' health permit. Lepejian and his family kept operating anyway. The county then performed close to 30 public health inspections at Tin Horn Flats over the ensuing month, documenting violations each time.

On January 25, Newsom lifted his regional-stay-home order, which allowed outdoor dining to resume statewide. Other state and local restrictions on indoor dining have since eased as the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths dropped considerably in Los Angeles. Today, restaurant dining rooms are allowed to operate at 50 percent countywide.

But that brought little relief to Tin Horn Flats. Two days after the stay-at-home order was lifted, Los Angeles County fully revoked the restaurant's already-suspended health permit and required it to stay closed until it acquired another one. In late February, the Burbank city council revoked a conditional use permit the restaurant needed to operate.

Still it stayed open. Within minutes of the city council's decision, Tin Horn Flats' social media accounts blared a message: "We WILL NOT COMPLY."

The situation has only escalated since then. Both Los Angeles County and the city of Burbank have sued Lepejian and his company, Barfly Inc., through which his family owns Tin Horn Flats.

In mid-March, a Los Angeles Superior Court gave the city the ability to shut off power to Tin Horn Flats, which it did. The restaurant then fired up a generator. A few days after that, the city padlocked the restaurant's doors. Lucas Lepejian, Berat's 20-year-old son, sawed the padlocks off. A day later, the Burbank police arrested him. He's since been arrested two more times, once after being spotted leaving the business and again after removing city-placed sandbags in front of the restaurant's entrances.

The city has continued to barricade Tin Horn Flats with wooden boards, caution tape, and metal fencing.

"It basically looks like the siege of Fallujah over there—over outdoor dining," the Lepejians' attorney, Mark Geragos, told the Los Angeles Times. Geragos has also sued Los Angeles County over pandemic restrictions placed on his own restaurant.

The conflict has proven divisive in the community. A Friday city council session attracted a storm of angry public comments, with the sentiments seemingly split evenly between people who wanted the city to leave Tin Horn Flats alone and people who thought more measures should be taken to keep it closed.

"I support the opening of Tinhorn Flats. If there are currently any lawsuits against Tin Horn Flats, I would ask that you drop them. Businesses have been through a lot this past year and it's time to support them and come together now," said one woman.

"The way [the Tin Horn Flats owners] been acting the last month during the pandemic, it shows me there's a blatant disregard for public health," said another commenter. "They're breaking down the chains that the city's putting up. That's not fair for the other restaurants that waited out the covid thing."

Meanwhile, a picture posted to the restaurant's Instagram shows their building closed off by city-installed fencing while protestors draped in American flags grill outside.

Lepejians probably haven't helped their cause by continually thumbing their noses at city officials. Other restaurants with more temporary or calibrated protests haven't attracted the same level of negative attention. That said, with all pandemic-related restrictions on businesses set to sunset by mid-June, the city's war on the restaurant seems to be far more about throwing its weight around than protecting public health.

If nothing else, the case shows how much force is required to enforce business closures when businesses choose resistance over compliance.

NEXT: Maryland Lawmakers Purge Decades-Old Law That Shielded Bad Cops

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  1. Apparently anyone elected to a public service role esp. if they are democrat believes their word is law. Think on that next time you vote for someone with a D after their name. They are illiberal authoritarian assholes and this is what happens.

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  2. Good God. Some actual Americans. All power to them. I hope they get rocket propelled grenades.

  3. Burbank? California?
    Why is he still there? He sounds like the kind of guy who should be in Florida or Texas.

    1. From Fl, no thanks. Fl man wouldn’t have stood for any of this shit.

      1. Florida Man wouldn’t have been asked to stand for it.

        Burbank may not have invented the use of chickenshit law enforcement as a government revenue stream, but they’ve been perfecting it for decades. One of the members of the city council there pointed out that even Rosa Parks had to do her time in jail before the law got changed (paraphrasing there).

        If you imagine Cartman from South Park screaming “RESPECT MY AUTHORITEYE!” at anything and everything, you’ve got a pretty good picture of a Southern California municipal government.

    2. It’s the weather. Texas and Florida are probably too humid. You really can’t beat California. I lived there as a youth and after living in AZ for over a decade, I miss it.

  4. When opening any business, the owner, to be successful, needs to consider three major factors. Location, location, and location. California is not a good location.

    1. Somehow the fifth largest economy in the world will do ok enough without him.

      1. Is that why it’s begging for another bailout?

      2. Now do it without counting all the federal defense contracts, all the federal park tourism, all the federal government office workers, and all the military payrolls. Might not make number five on their own.

      3. When they’re done driving the tech and entertainment industries out of the state, it won’t be anywhere near the fifth biggest in the world anymore.

  5. “Right” to open. Considering you have always had to comply with health orders they obviously had no “right” to be open.

    Tough luck snowflakes.

    1. Losing your Covid powers has made you sullen and bitchy.

    2. I wonder if you are this deferential to your employer.

    3. Get up off of your damn knees, shitlunches.

  6. If nothing else, the case shows how much force is required to enforce business closures when businesses choose resistance over compliance.

    What are these “force” and “resistance” of which you speak?

  7. So I’m guessing these were oral statements at the city council? Interesting dichotomy here:

    “I support the opening of Tinhorn Flats. If there are currently any lawsuits against Tin Horn Flats, I would ask that you drop them. Businesses have been through a lot this past year and it’s time to support them and come together now,” said one woman.

    Thoughtful, well articulated. Gets to the point, a strong message of unity.

    “The way [the Tin Horn Flats owners] been acting the last month during the pandemic, it shows me there’s a blatant disregard for public health,” said another commenter. “They’re breaking down the chains that the city’s putting up. That’s not fair for the other restaurants that waited out the covid thing.”

    What to say about this? It sounds like petulant whining. “It’s not fair” is a statist dog-whistle. And “the covid thing,” ha. That’s a pretty funny euphemism for STATE-SPONSORED LOCKDOWNS. Precise language is not this persons forte, nor is precise thinking.

    1. Looks around. Sees no funnel cakes or Gravitrons giving spontaneous abortions. Wonders what “fair” has to do with anything.

  8. All people in favor of a lock down should have a 100% income tax until reopening. I can gaurentee that none of the naysayers have a Job where going in mattered

  9. Were there actual health code violations? Then show them! Show us the cockroaches, show us the overflowing grease traps, show us the rattus norvegicus turd cutters. Dammit, where is Larry the Cableguy when you need a proper health inspection? Those will keep people out!

    But if all the city did was find some bullshit made up rule to chain and sandbag the bar, then fuck them.

    1. No violations except allowing outdoor dining when we had a stay-at-home order in Nov-Dec last year.

      1. When it started, it wasn’t even really “outdoor dining”. They just weren’t preventing people from eating their “take out” orders at the outdoor tables on the property, there was no service to any of those tables that would have been part of a “dining” operation.

    2. Any inspector who can’t find a violation in literally any environment wouldn’t be considered competent for the job in most cities around L.A. County.

      I think their interview process is to send a candidate into a grade 100 clean room and find at least 5 things which could be written up as a “violation” for any establishment that serves food. Anything from a drain pipe that’s the wrong shape/length to a stiff handle on a faucet in a mop closet could be used as a “violation”. It wouldn’t surprise me that half the violations the inspectors found in their daily visits might have had to do with something past an expiration date being found in the back of a walk-in freezer, or maybe the cellophane being not quite tight enough on something on the 2nd shelf of a reach-in fridge.

  10. Also, Facebook removed their business page and banned them a couple weeks ago. That was the primary method of them communicating with their customers and raising legal fee money from their supporters via t-shirt / hat sales.

  11. Waiting for all the Republicans here to tell us the Lepejians just need to obey the law and can’t complain if they’re punished for resisting. What’s good for George Floyd is good for these guys right?

    1. Waiting for all the Democrats here to tell us the Lepejians just need to obey the law and can’t complain if they’re punished for resisting. What’s good for Ashli Babbitt is good for these guys right?

  12. “You didn’t BUILD THAT!!!”, Hitler and the Nazi-Party….
    “You don’t own you; [We] OWN you and everything you think you own.”

  13. Almost correct. Lysander Spooner’s example of how to deal with the disobedient was the formula followed at Waco (imaginary tax liability for a supposed part serving as pretext). I’d wager that only fear of the Second Amendment stopped California’s appointed looters from shooting all occupants, burning the business, arresting all who tried to defend the victims and then trying them in “their” courts.

  14. The Left calls this “good leadership”. Leftist = Fascist.

  15. Wokeholes following the commands of Woke Supremacists. Behold, the vision The Left has for anyone who does not conform or comply.
    We are Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  16. So they (the large city run by a nanny gov) are basically admitting it’s nothing to do with public safety, it’s just a vindictive punishment after the fact because they (the family run bar) were defiant and shrugged off the restrictions before.

  17. I wholeheartedly agree with the actions of this restaurant owner. It was wrong to close down all the small businesses and leave others like Walmart, etc. open. I hope and pray that they are able to save their restaurant. We need to stand up against draconian laws. Full speed ahead…no masks…no social distancing…no “killer vax”…no Vaccine Passports. Stand up for your freedoms now, unless you are willing to lose them all! P.S. The Scamdemic never was about the Science…it was about taking all of our freedoms away! So how have they done so far?

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