“We’re open,” Lucas Lepejian, co-owner of Tinhorn Flats, said shortly after noon on Thursday, adding that a normal crowd of about 20 patrons was at the restaurant.
As part of an escalating feud between local governments and a small business that is defying lockdown orders to close, the city ordered the restaurant doors padlocked Wednesday morning.
After arriving Wednesday and seeing the barricade, Lepejian said he went to a side door, and “I sawed it off.” Customers entered through that side door.
“It was our busiest day yet,” said Lepejian, but added: “It was St. Patrick’s Day.”
A prepared statement from the city said the fire and police chiefs “do not condone this blatant disregard for life safety exhibited by the irresponsible behavior of Tinhorn Flats,” but felt compelled to unlock the doors as a safety measure after seeing the restaurant doing business.
Eric Garcia, Burbank’s fire chief, was quoted as saying, “It’s shameful that Tinhorn Flats allowed people within their establishment while the front doors were still locked and in violation of the judge’s orders. If a fire had broken out during this event, people could have become trapped inside, which may have resulted in the loss of life.”
The restaurant has refused to close despite local orders prohibiting, until Monday, indoor dining and even outdoor dining off and on for the last year.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff handed down a temporary restraining order early last week essentially ordering the restaurant on Magnolia Boulevard to close, but he did not authorize disconnecting the power or padlocking the doors. However, after the city presented evidence that Tinhorn Flats was continuing to do business, the judge on Friday said the city could disconnect the electricity.
But after the power shutoff Saturday morning, Tinhorn Flats continued operating, using generators that were loaned to it. Burbank lawyers on Tuesday got permission from the court to lock the doors.
However, the doors were locked only a total of about 12 hours, said Lepejian, and the restaurant served customers for most of those 12 hours.
“It’s like a chess match,” he said. “If they turn off the water, I’ll get a water truck.”
Baret Lepejian, another co-owner of Tinhorn Flats and the father of Lucas, appeared on the Varney & Co. business news program on the Fox Business Network Tuesday morning and vowed to stay open, saying the orders for small businesses to close were capricious and harmful.
“It’s so outrageous, what is happening,” he said, saying the Burbank City Council is out to punish him.
He said at first he complied with the second ban on outdoor dining, imposed in December. But since there was no evidence that outdoor dining posed any risk, he said, after a couple of days, “I just opened up.”
The judge has scheduled a hearing late next week on whether the temporary restraining order should be ratcheted up to a preliminary injunction ordering the restaurant to close.