Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill is facing yet another layer of opposition, as the controversial restaurant owner’s ex-wife — the owner of the property — is working to have the eatery evicted.
Tinhorn Flats owner Baret Lepejian confirmed to the Leader this week that his former wife is trying to have his business evicted from her property, located at West Magnolia Boulevard and North Naomi Street. The saloon has been inaccessible for more than a month after the city placed a fence around the property.
Isabelle Lepejian also confirmed that she is seeking to evict Tinhorn Flats, though she declined to comment further. Court documents did not appear to be publicly available this week.
Baret Lepejian, who has been in Thailand since 2019, said the dispute arose because he has been paying only part of the rent he owes. Isabelle agreed to the arrangement previously, he claimed, but has since changed her mind.
“It’s hard to pay [full] rent when there’s a fence around your business,” he said. “So throw that into the legal mess.”
Burbank has an eviction moratorium for businesses unable to pay rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic or the commercial restrictions governments issued in response to it. Tinhorn Flats has been entrenched in a long and bitter feud with the city and county over its refusal to obey some of those restrictions, particularly previous health orders prohibiting in-person dining. It is facing lawsuits from both levels of government.
More recently, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge approved a preliminary injunction prohibiting Tinhorn Flats from operating. The city has also “red-tagged” the facility, declaring it unsafe after the restaurant’s supporters brought generators when the city switched off the saloon’s electricity.
Isabelle Lepejian was named as a defendant in the city’s lawsuit against Tinhorn Flats, but according to court documents has denied being involved in the restaurant’s operations.
Lucas Lepejian, Baret and Isabelle’s son who was arrested three times for attempting to enter Tinhorn Flats despite the judge’s orders, has been intermittently operating a Tinhorn Flats food truck to sell burgers while the restaurant remains inaccessible.
He told the Leader that the truck, which is rented, passed the necessary inspections, and the county public health department confirmed it had the required permit. But Simone McFarland, a city spokeswoman, said the truck’s owner had yet to obtain a local business permit.
However, McFarland added, the truck has not been operating in the city since Monday; Baret Lepejian said the truck had mechanical issues that needed to be addressed.
And though Lucas Lepejian suggested in an interview that the truck could continue operating for the foreseeable future, Baret said the truck owner has been “freaking out” due to pressure from the city.
A county public health spokeswoman also told the Leader that the department attempted to conduct an inspection of the food truck on May 6, but that the inspector was refused access. The spokeswoman added that a compliance review would be scheduled with the holder of the health permit.
Baret Lepejian’s attorney, Mark Geragos, is also attempting to persuade the judge to dissolve the preliminary injunction and fines issued against the restaurant for violating the court order prohibiting it from serving patrons. That hearing is scheduled for May 28, after Geragos urged the judge to move it up from its original July date.
Tinhorn Flats’ defiance of the city and county governments has attracted ire from many in the local community concerned about the owner’s attitude toward officials and dismissiveness toward the coronavirus pandemic. Others, both within and outside of Burbank, have viewed the restaurant as a rallying point against what they see as tyranny in the name of public safety.
The eatery’s supporters have protested in front of the restaurant weekly, with a smaller group also demonstrating in front of the residences of Burbank Councilman Konstantine Anthony and Mayor Bob Frutos.