First published in the Nov. 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Old Fashioned Investment, LLC, the new owner of the property on which Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill is located, said it intends to eventually open a new restaurant there — despite the previous tenant’s reputation.
The owner of the company, which acquired the property on Nov. 9, told the Leader that he used to live about two blocks away from the restaurant and even took his now-fiancé there on their first date.
Though he’s aware of the controversy surrounding the eatery, he wants to restore the location to its former status as a popular, rustic Burbank bar and restaurant. It will open under a different name, however, since the Tinhorn Flats moniker is the property of another entity.
“It [had] good food and a nice environment,” said the new owner, Steve, who requested that he only be identified by his first name because of concern that the highly divisive nature of the Tinhorn Flats saga might bring unwanted attention to him and his family. “[The controversy] didn’t really discourage me, because that’s how I remember it, and that’s how we want to make it again.”
The former site’s restaurant thrust itself into the public eye late last year when its previous owner Baret Lepejian announced that Tinhorn Flats would not comply with county and state in-person dining bans established to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Those bans have been lifted for months, but Tinhorn Flats’ legal battles with Burbank and Los Angeles County continue. Both sued Lepejian for keeping the restaurant open despite losing his required permits. He has countersued both governments, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated.
Burbank representatives recently asked an L.A. Superior Court judge to dismiss the countersuit, and this week the City Council agreed to dismiss its suit against Baret Lepejian’s ex-wife, Isabelle Lepejian, who had been included in the litigation as Tinhorn Flats’ property owner (she has denied having any involvement in the business’s actions).
Isabelle Lepejian, who evicted her former husband in June for not trying to regain his municipal permit after the City Council revoked it, told the Leader that she sold the property to get out of what she described as a difficult situation with her ex-husband and their children.
“The negative [experience] was so heavy on me, that I had no choice [but] to sell it,” she said, noting that tensions with her children have flared because of their support of the business. “I had no choice.”
City workers recently removed a chain link fence that had wrapped around the business. Burbank had placed the barrier during its legal battle with Tinhorn Flats to prevent employees from accessing it. The situation escalated over several months as the restaurant’s defiance attracted crowds of supporters protesting against government health orders. The weekly demonstrations infuriated many neighbors and business owners, who objected to protesters’ denial of the pandemic and the noise they produced.
In a video posted to the Tinhorn Flats Instagram account recently, the restaurateur acknowledged that the business’ presence in Burbank is over.
“It will cease to exist at that location, but [that] does not mean that, once all this is all resolved, that it won’t be somewhere else — bigger, better, with a different representation of what a restaurant can be,” Baret Lepejian said.
He also said that he has no plans to discontinue his legal fights with Burbank and L.A. County. But while he said he wouldn’t have acted differently if he had the chance, he seemed to indicate that the future is somewhat uncertain.
“We’re still alive,” Baret Lepejian said on Instagram. “If this thing goes wrong, I’m in a lot of trouble. I said from the beginning [that] I’ll go down with the ship, and I’m obviously going down with the ship.”
For the new owner of the property, however, the purchase is an opportunity to revitalize a location he remembers fondly. Steve said he plans to fumigate the building before making some repairs to the structure. He added that he wants to make sure the neighbors are happy with the look and operations of the business.
“A place like that is really based on the person running it,” he said. “And I feel like it’s an open environment where everyone can have a good time, and we want to work with everybody.”