A hearing at which a Los Angeles County department will attempt to revoke the health permit of a local restaurant that continues to offer outdoor dining in defiance of government restrictions is scheduled for the week of Jan. 17, according to county officials. An exact date was not immediately available.
Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill, which has offered in-person dining since Dec. 10, has frustrated many local residents and city officials concerned that the practice could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, in which there has been a major surge. A state health order prohibits in-person dining in most of California because of overburdened hospital intensive care units, and a county health order did the same in late 2020.
After multiple complaints from community members — the county Department of Public Health had received about 270 as of Wednesday — and the city of Burbank, the county pulled the restaurant’s health permit provisionally in December, but the eatery received a stay on a permanent revocation during a hearing. The reasons for the stay remain unclear.
Public Health has issued at least 10 citations against Tinhorn Flats regarding pandemic-related restrictions, the department reported this week, though the restaurant’s owner, Baret Lepejian, has stated that he will refuse to pay fines.
In December, Tinhorn Flats posted a picture of a five-digit check signed by Lepejian to an attorney. He explained this week that he hired legal counsel to advise him through his disputes with the county.
“Now that I have to get an expensive attorney involved … [what I do] depends on what he says as well,” he said. But he emphasized, as he has before, that he won’t close the restaurant even if his licenses are revoked.
If the county is successful in revoking Tinhorn Flats’ license, it may have to go to court to have the business shut down permanently. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is also investigating the issue and could suspend the restaurant’s liquor license, according to a statement from the city.
“As a reminder, while there are businesses in town not in compliance with the Health Orders, any person patronizing those businesses and taking part in behavior that isn’t allowed by the County Health Order is also not in compliance,” the statement added.
“Again, this situation is full of confusion and things that don’t make sense, but we think it is important that our residents understand the facts, and the challenging position the City is in.”
Burbank officials have often reminded residents that their power is limited and urged patience as they report health order violations to higher levels of government. City Attorney Amy Albano noted that Burbank Water and Power cannot legally shut off utility services to a business that is not complying with health orders.