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Two Restaurants Engaged in $5 Million Lawsuit Against USC Have Now Closed

The university is accused of defrauding two restaurants at USC Village, and now both are out of business

Onlookers point at a map at USC Village.
USC Village
USC Village
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

An ongoing restaurant-related lawsuit against the University of Southern California and its attached USC Village property isn’t going away any time soon. The college campus’s Daily Trojan paper has been keeping up with the details, including an update from one of the restaurants that alleges to have been “deceived and defrauded” by representatives for the university.

Both Rance’s Chicago Pizza and all-day cafe BBCM are named in a lawsuit filed by Russ, August, & Kabat law firm in Los Angeles. The suit alleges that USC’s Real Estate and Asset Management team used deceptive practices to lure in those restaurants and others, and that the college failed to deliver on promises made to the businesses, including the ability for students to use on-campus dining cards, known as USCards, as payment at the restaurants.

Per the Daily Trojan, both Rance’s and BBCM have closed in the past several weeks. The final day of service for Rance’s was September 2, while BBCM closed at the end of August, just days after Eater’s news of the lawsuit.

That doesn’t mean the lawsuit is going away. In a conversation with the Daily Trojan, Rance’s co-owner Aaron Tofani continues to believe that USC should be forced to reckon with the position it put his restaurant in. Per the Daily Trojan:

“We’ve been set up in a situation where USC is acting as the banker with all these mealing plans, and they’re acting as the landlord, and they’re also the competition with the dining hall,” he said. “We just realized that there’s no way to succeed here.”

Tofani says that, despite initially making claims to the contrary, the university repeatedly denied his and other restaurants’ requests to be able to use USCards as payment. USC Village also made little connection with the outside community, despite further promises to do so, as outlined in the lawsuit, says the Daily Trojan:

Rance’s and BBCM also said the University promised USC Village would hold farmer’s markets, tailgates and other events to draw traffic from the local community. Instead, Tofani said that during the summer and holiday breaks, USC Village vendors made little profit.

USC has previously told Eater that “the university believes the allegations ... are inaccurate, and we will vigorously defend against them in court.” USC also noted that Rance’s had fallen several months behind on rent before closing, a fact that Tofani confirms is true. He is hoping that a judgement from the $5 million lawsuit will help to cover his losses from the USC location, which he claims was never profitable. Rance’s still has two locations in Long Beach and Costa Mesa, while BBCM’s sister restaurant the Butcher, the Baker, and the Cappuccino Maker is up and running on the Sunset Strip.