A judge gave a tentative ruling on Friday in favor of the city’s preliminary injunction against Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill, but the decision will not be finalized until April 9, allowing for the possibility of a settlement.
Tinhorn Flats has remained open for months since December, when its outdoor patio reopened in violation of state and county health orders. The practice resulted in the restaurant’s health and local permits being revoked, and now it faces lawsuits from the city of Burbank and Los Angeles County over the owner’s refusal to close the eatery.
A spokeswoman for the city said that the restaurant’s attorney requested the judge delay his decision because it is believed the two parties might settle their issues out of court. Though Burbank’s representatives argued against the delay, Beckloff continued the hearing to next month. Tinhorn Flats, still under a temporary restraining order, remains legally barred from operating.
County Judge Mitchell Beckloff’s tentative ruling said that Barfly, Inc., the parent company of Tinhorn Flats, “has submitted no evidence in support of its opposition. It has submitted argument only.”
If Beckloff confirms his ruling on April 9, approving a preliminary injunction against Barfly, Inc., Tinhorn Flats could be found in contempt of court if it continues to operate. Confirming the ruling would also approve $1,150 in sanctions against the restaurant.
The City Council met in closed session on Friday evening — after the Leader’s press deadline — to discuss the case further.
Tinhorn Flats said on social media this week that it was “at the table” with city representatives and was hoping for a compromise. But it also told supporters who disagreed with its stance that it “will not comply” with restrictions.
Burbank officials have recently stepped up efforts to enforce the temporary restraining order, which was issued on March 8. But the restaurant has proved resistant, in large part thanks to its supporters, who have donated money to help pay for legal fees and generators after the city switched off Tinhorn Flats’ electricity.
The city also temporarily padlocked Tinhorn Flats’ doors on March 17, but the latch on its side door was broken just hours later, allowing business to resume. Burbank officials soon ordered the other locks removed to prevent a fire hazard.
Because of the restaurant’s reactions, Beckloff’s tentative ruling also decided against allowing the city access to further enforcement measures like shutting off the restaurant’s water and gas lines or barricading the doors.
“Undoubtedly, based on the evidence presented — as with the electrical power—Barfly will merely obtain alternative sources,” Beckloff wrote. “The court questions the wisdom of creating a situation where Barfly’s agents add water and propane tanks to the mix. Moreover, the City’s request to barricade the premises, in the court’s view, leads to concerns about emergency responder access and the potential for entrapment.
“At some point, the City’s suggested enforcement mechanisms present their own public health and safety risk — not only to Barfly and its patrons but to the surrounding neighborhood, as well.”
SUPPORTERS JOIN PROTEST
The judge’s decision was preceded by an anti-mask protest on Thursday that made its way to a City Council member’s house.
About 10 people joined the protest, which appeared to target the city’s response to Tinhorn Flats’ actions and coronavirus restrictions as a whole. It began when a group with signs and loudspeakers demonstrated in front of the Dunkin’ at Glenoaks Boulevard, opposing the donut chain’s policy requiring customers to wear face coverings.
Tony Moon, a San Gabriel resident and supporter of Tinhorn Flats who attended the protest, said the group wants the city to turn the restaurant’s utilities back on and drop the fines it has to pay.
Though Moon doesn’t deny that the coronavirus can have a deadly effect, he believes people shouldn’t be afraid of a virus with a high survivability rate.
“If this council truly works for the community and the city,” he said, “they would take that into consideration and basically give Tinhorn, maybe a nod, a pass, maybe half of the fine or just something so they can get back to working and just providing and having their employees come in.”
Because the fines Tinhorn Flats has been issued so far are from the county, the city does not have the power to clear them.
Burbank Police Department officers, who supervised the protest, informed protestors that the policy was within the business’ rights, and said the demonstrators could stay as long as they did not play sirens or interfere with the flow of traffic at the Dunkin’ drive-thru.
The protestors later moved to demonstrate in front of Councilmember Konstantine Anthony’s apartment, demanding he leave his residence to address them. The group was also there for a protest the previous Thursday. It was not clear if Anthony was in his apartment at the time of the protests.
Anthony declined to comment on this week’s protest but said in an email to the Leader that, “in general, I support every American’s right to peaceably assemble and protest their government in accordance with all respective laws and regulations.”
A self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, Anthony has been a frequent target of Tinhorn Flats supporters who label him a “Communist,” though the City Council was unanimous in voting to revoke the restaurant’s conditional use permit and seek legal action against it.