Los Angeles County filed a civil complaint against Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill this week, arguing that the restaurant violated COVID-19 health orders.
The complaint, filed Wednesday against Barfly Inc. — which operates Tinhorn Flats — and restaurant owner Baret Lepejian alleges the establishment refused to close its outdoor patio when county and state orders prohibited al fresco dining several weeks ago. The county is asking the court to require the restaurant to adhere to the orders and pay fines for each day it allegedly violated them, as well as attorneys’ fees.
As announced on its social media pages, Tinhorn Flats reopened its patio on Dec. 10, meaning Lepejian could have to pay thousands of dollars in fines if the county prevails. The restaurant owner has denounced the health orders as tyrannical, though recently he has claimed that he has been in compliance with them because Tinhorn Flats offered only pickup and delivery services. However, his outdoor patio remained available for patrons’ use.
Lepejian said in an interview that he sees no reason why he should be penalized for defying restrictions on in-person dining that have since been lifted, reiterating that he will not pay the county fines.
“We haven’t done anything really wrong,” he said. “They’ve offered no support, no help, and they’re trying to throw fines and fees at us. It’s about as wrong as possible.”
It appears unlikely that the county will be able to force Tinhorn Flats to close its outdoor patio, as the restrictions banning outdoor, in-person dining ended on Friday. The county Department of Public Health told the Leader in a statement that “the lawsuit seeks to ensure compliance with the Health Officer Order and DPH will be conducting inspections to make sure they are in compliance with the applicable orders and County requirements. These restaurants gained an unfair advantage by operating in violation of the law while other restaurants complied with the law.”
The county’s court complaint, similar to one issued against Cronies Sports Grill in Agoura Hills, is the latest development in an extended feud between Tinhorn Flats and government agencies. The county public health department recently revoked the Tinhorn Flats’ health permit, which Lepejian said he intends to recover, and pointed out this means the restaurant is operating illegally.
“The County has been forced to take this action to protect the health of our residents only after repeated notices, written directives, citations and appeals to both businesses to do the right thing and comply voluntarily with the Health Officer Orders,” an county spokesperson said in a statement.
“Thousands of other businesses have stepped up to do their part to protect the public’s health during this unprecedented emergency. We are grateful that they are doing the right thing to help our County through this unprecedented and dangerous time.”
As of Friday, a hearing date had not been scheduled for the complaint.