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Burbank’s Tinhorn Flats Faces Business Shutdown, Legal Action Over Refusal to Close

Owner Baret Lepejian has been vocal about staying open despite surging COVID-19 numbers and state mandates

A Western-themed bar from the front, at an angle, showing saloon doors and blue skies beyond.
Tinhorn Flats in Burbank
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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.

The city of Burbank is considering further punitive action against the owner of Tinhorn Flats, as the restaurant has repeatedly ignored legal demands to stop offering on-site (and often unmasked, indoor) dining on its property, per a state-level regional public health order requirement as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Owner Baret Lepejian and his family have been vocal about their protest of mask mandates and on-site dining shutdowns, drawing press attention, protests, and fellow anti-lockdown types to the restaurant on Magnolia Boulevard in recent weeks. Yesterday the family posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page that “Forced closures and illegal mandates have nothing to do with public safety... only about fear [and] control.” Los Angeles County is currently among the worst hotspots for COVID-19 in America, with the airborne-transmitted virus killing one person every 15 minutes in the county.

Per My Burbank, officials in the standalone Los Angeles County city have given Lepejian an ultimatum: come into compliance by January 18, or face the possible revocation of the business’s conditional use permit that allows it to operate. All legal restaurants are required to hold a valid conditional use permit as a function of business (other permits, like an Alcoholic Beverage Control permit to serve beer, wine, and spirits, are managed by separate entities and can also be revoked).

Should Tinhorn Flats have its CUP pulled, ownership would be operating illegally — not just in violation of a public health order — meaning Lepejian could face arrest, larger fines, and more. In Orange County, a business owner is facing misdemeanor criminal charges for continuing to operate a bar against public order.

The city of Burbank put out a public statement announcing the ultimatum, saying that if Tinhorn Flats did not come into compliance the case would go before a public hearing for discussion and possible permit revocation; that hearing wouldn’t happen until February 22. In that statement, Burbank mayor Bob Frutos said:

This is a difficult time in history. The City Council is often being pulled in different directions that don’t always align but we have mandates to protect our community and comply with State and County Orders. It is the Council’s hope that the owner of Tin Horn Flats will comply with his CUP, State and County mandates that currently allow only take-out or delivery service.

Tinhorn Flats is far from the only Southern California restaurant to openly flout the closure mandates from the state. Others like La Scala in Beverly Hills and Mastro’s in Malibu have been adamantly opposed to stopping on-site dining, though public pressure has stopped some operators from continuing to do so. Others, like the owners of Restauration in Long Beach, continue to offer patio dining despite public backlash.