A county judge has ordered a preliminary injunction against Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill, issuing the tentative ruling he made two weeks ago.
The preliminary injunction legally replaces the temporary restraining order the city issued barring Tinhorn Flats from operating since March 8. The injunction, as Judge Mitchell Beckloff noted in his tentative ruling, doesn’t place any new requirements on the restaurant.
Beckloff issued a tentative ruling on March 26 but Tinhorn Flats’ attorneys requested two weeks to meet with the city’s representatives and seek a compromise. None was reached.
“[Tinhorn Flats parent company] Barfly suggests it will suffer grave or irreparable harm from the issuance of a preliminary injunction,” Beckloff wrote in his tentative ruling. “Barfly fails to offer any specific facts or evidence to substantiate its argument. In reality, any harm Barfly has suffered is related to the loss of its health permit and [conditional use permit] after administrative hearings.
“A preliminary injunction in this action merely seeks to ensure Barfly complies with the law,” he wrote, adding “(Of course, the City has submitted evidence suggesting Barfly has no intentions of complying with the law.)”
The judge also imposed $1,150 in sanctions against Tinhorn Flats for violating the temporary restraining order.
The restaurant has faced opposition from the local and county governments for remaining open despite the loss of its health permit and CUP, which were revoked after it reopened in-person dining when coronavirus health orders prohibited it. Baret Lepejian, the owner of Tinhorn Flats, confirmed to the Leader that he plans to sue the city in federal court.
“The whole thing is completely unconstitutional, every part of it,” he said. “Everything from the actual lockdown to the way we’ve been treated. This is … tyranny.”
But in Friday’s ruling, the judge appeared unconvinced by the argument that the Los Angeles County health orders that restricted outdoor dining — and which have been upheld by an appellate court in a separate case — are unconstitutional, noting that Tinhorn Flats’ representatives had submitted “absolutely no evidence” on that point.
However, Beckloff remained unwilling to grant Burbank additional enforcement measures such as gas and water shutoffs, expressing concern that public safety could be endangered if Tinhorn Flats began using propane and water tanks in response. After the city received court approval to switch off the restaurant’s electricity last month, its supporters brought in generators.
The presence of those generators and continued operation of Tinhorn Flats led to the city’s “red-tagging” of the location, declaring it unsafe to enter. After the owner’s son, Lucas Lepejian, continued operating the restaurant last week, he was arrested and cited for defying a court order.
Lepejian was arrested twice more. On Tuesday, he was arrested a third time for allegedly violating municipal building codes after Burbank police said he was seen removing city-placed sandbags against the restaurant’s doors. He was released hours later.
Because of the arrests, the restaurant remained closed for much of this week, though protestors frequently used the location as a rallying point against coronavirus restrictions. Baret Lepejian said he is looking for a food truck from which to serve food.
Those protests have sometimes been the site of confrontations between Tinhorn Flats supporters and other groups — often captured by cell phone video.
In one video, posted to Instagram on April 3, Tinhorn Flats supporters are shown shouting at two individuals wearing bright green “Code Enforcement” vests. Simone McFarland, a spokeswoman for the city, identified them as Willdan Group employees the city hired to manage enforcement of its face covering mandate.
One man, the video shows, reaches out and removes the mask from one of the workers, who is then shoved by another protestor. Other Tinhorn Flats supporters can be heard telling them to stop, quickly separating the Willdan employees from the larger group and returning the mask, though others continue jeering.
McFarland said the Willdan team hadn’t reported the incident to the city, but that the Burbank Police Department is investigating it.
In a separate incident on April 4, a 20-year-old man was reportedly arrested for allegedly “antagonizing, assaulting and agitating” Tinhorn Flats supporters, according to Sgt. Emil Brimway of the Burbank Police Department, “while inciting the assembled crowd into violent behavior.” He was booked for allegedly participating in a riot and released with a citation.
Brimway did not specify what led to the confrontation or what the suspect said to the crowd.
— City News Service contributed to this report