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Saturday, Jan 28, 2023
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Golf Complex Operator Wins Round

After a four-year court battle, Mike Bernback has prevailed in his lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. But that doesn’t mean he’s won the war. Bernback is the owner of Ready Golf Centers, a company that has been running the pro shop and driving range at the municipal Sepulveda Golf Complex in Encino on a month-to-month basis despite his efforts to get a long-term contract. The Business Journal in December 2012 wrote about the legal dispute, which Bernback contended stemmed from a desire of unions to take over the shop and staff it with unionized city employees. He had run his operation for seven years on monthly terms until 2011 when the city decided to formalize the situation and issued a request for proposals to run the shop. He proposed a 10-year contract that was accepted and approved by the Department of Recreation & Parks board, the mayor’s office and the City Council. But the department eventually refused to sign it and even tried to evict Ready Golf. So Bernback sued and won, but the city appealed. In a March 20 ruling, California Court of Appeal Judge Richard Aldrich upheld the lower court decision, noting that the contract was shuffled between parks and recreation officials without any clear purpose. “This chaos notwithstanding, we conclude that the trial court did not err,” Aldrich concluded. In addition, the court ordered the city to refund Bernback’s legal costs, which he said totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars. He figures the city’s decision to appeal alone cost taxpayers an extra $75,000. Now he fears the city may further appeal the case. “I wouldn’t say it’s settled, because that makes it sound like we came to an agreement,” he said. “If you are asking me if I think they will do what the court asked, I would say no. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” The city attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment. If Bernback can secure a contract, he plans to make capital investments in the range, as well as increasing his prices, which haven’t changed in 11 years. But he regrets that the litigation prevented him from investing years ago to build the business. “When you lose patrons, it’s nearly impossible to get them back,” Bernback said. “If they sign the contract, the business will improve, but it will never be what it could have been.” – Joel Russell

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.
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