A local restaurant failed to show this week that it was complying with a ban on in-person dining, a city spokesman said, meaning the City Council could revoke or suspend the business’ permit next month.
Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill, which has since December operated in open defiance of county and state health orders prohibiting in-person dining, did not provide evidence by a city-imposed Tuesday deadline that it had remedied its violations, public information specialist Jonathan Jones confirmed. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. between the restaurant owner and the City Council, during which the city panel could revoke, suspend or modify Tinhorn Flats’ conditional use permit.
The restaurant’s owner, Baret Lepejian, has given little indication that he will back down against multiple government entities’ attempts to force him to comply with health orders, which were issued to slow the current surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Patrick Prescott, the city’s community development director, ordered Lepejian in a public letter to close the outdoor patio at which Tinhorn Flats has offered in-person dining, require all employees and customers to wear face coverings and meet other health order requirements. Lepejian said he requires his staff to wear masks, but not his customers.
Prescott also alleged in the letter that the restaurant had served alcohol to underage patrons, a claim Lepejian denies.
“That’s absolutely false,” he said. “We do not serve underage kids. We never have and that’s something that’s very important. That’s a rumor.”
Lepejian also argued that he is complying with health orders because his restaurant offers takeout only. If his customers choose to eat the food at his outdoor patio, he said, that’s their choice.
“We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “There are some restaurants in the state that are [completely] defying [the health order].”
The city has only relatively recently made a direct move against Tinhorn Flats for alleged health order violations, with officials having relied on the county and state to enforce regulations. It is not clear what enforcement measures Burbank would or could take if Lepejian continues to operate his restaurant without the necessary permits, as he has previously stated he will do.
City officials have also noted that they cannot legally shut off utilities to Tinhorn Flats or any other non-complying business for violating health orders.
Amy Albano, Burbank’s city attorney, said she believes the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health held a hearing on Wednesday in an attempt to revoke Tinhorn Flats’ health permit, though the health department did not respond to emails from the Leader asking for the results of that hearing.
As of this week, the county health department has issued Tinhorn Flats 17 citations regarding what it said were violations related to health orders. According to the department’s records, inspectors have visited the restaurant daily since Jan. 4 and made several additional visits in December.