Burbank restaurant and bar Tinhorn Flats is back in the news today, in part because of a planned city meeting tonight at 5 p.m. that could have major implications for the future of the business at large. Owner Baret Lepejian and his family have been vocally against the rolling county-led public health lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, operating on-site dining (mostly outdoor, though social media has shown some indoor bar seating as well at times) in direct opposition to county mandates. Along the way they’ve racked up countless fines and warnings, and tonight it could all be coming to a head.
Per a flier sent around by the city of Burbank, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, consideration is underway to revoke the restaurant’s conditional use permit, an essentially final step in making sure the business no longer operates. County officials have also considered bringing formal criminal charges against Lepejian and his family for “violating the CUP’s Conditions of Approval.” That’s mostly just a formal way of saying the restaurant stayed open for on-site dining after being told to shut down by public health officials, who reduced restaurants to takeout and delivery only back in late 2020 as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed across the region. Restaurants were once again allowed to resume limited-capacity on-site outdoor dining, with proper protocols in place, late last month.
This time, though, they’re not alone, as it seems that one Mark Geragos is now representing the restaurant in its fight with city and county officials. Geragos is a lawyer and the owner of Downtown LA’s Engine Co. No. 28, which filed a lawsuit with county officials last year regarding the tricky question of causal data linking outdoor dining at restaurants with a rise in coronavirus cases. Geragos and others have held that a formal case must be made linking contact tracing data back to restaurants in order for them to be legally closed by public health mandate; county officials have maintained (and courts have upheld) that they’re not required to show such data to act in the interest of public health and safety during an emergency.
Prior to tonight’s showdown, Lepejian has been a vocal anti-lockdown advocate on social media, calling the loss of outdoor dining a “tyrannical mandate” and saying that describing the wearing of masks as nothing more than a tool of “control and fear,” among other things.
The city of Burbank meeting tonight to determine the fate of Tinhorn Flats’s conditional use permit, where Lepejian, Geragos, and many supporters are expected to be present, can be viewed online beginning at 5 p.m.