The city of Burbank and local business owners of Tinhorn Flats Saloon and Grill continue to face off in their ongoing battle over coronavirus closures, with the conflict rising to an arrest just before the Easter holiday. “While Tinhorn Flats continues to flagrantly ignore and violate court orders to shut down restaurant operations, the city of Burbank has taken extraordinary measures to obtain compliance,” a statement from the city read. “This includes turning off the electricity and revoking the Conditional Use Permit after the County Public Health Department revoked their health permit. Most recently, on March 31, the city red tagged the building located at 2623 W. Magnolia Blvd., known as Tinhorn Flats, after finding significant life safety hazards.”Burbank and Tinhorn Flats have been locked in an escalating feud for months. The establishment opened its outdoor dining late last year despite orders from local governments banning outdoor dining, becoming a rallying point for local anti-lockdown and anti-mask activists. The city revoked the restaurant’s permits, but when the restaurant continued operating, the city shut off its electricity and later padlocked its doors. But the restaurant used borrowed generators and the owner’s son, Lucas Lepejian, cut a padlock about 12 hours after it was put on and reopened the restaurant.
The restaurant’s owner, Baret Lepejian, said in an interview with the Business Journal that he was surprised the city had condemned his restaurant because he believed he and the city were working on a compromise.Lepejian and his lawyer, Mark Geragos, had a private Zoom meeting the week of March 22 with the Burbank mayor and city officials. Lepejian said the mayor expressed his commitment to working out a compromise and Lepejian said he told them he wanted a solution and that “no one needs to win here.” He said he took it as a good-faith effort on the part of the city to resolve the conflict. He said he heard nothing else from the city.The mayor and city officials did not return a request for comment.Traffic stop arrestThe week following the meeting, the building was padlocked again and the city taped a red sheet on the entrance saying the restaurant was unsafe and no one was to enter or occupy the structure. After the restaurant was red tagged on the morning of March 31, Lucas Lepejian cut the locks for a second time and proceeded with patio service. A crowd of about 50 observers were present, supporting the business reopening. Police briefly blocked the side street and observed Lepejian cutting the locks off, but dispersed within two hours.
On the evening of April 1, Lucas Lepejian was arrested for continuing to violate court orders.
“The Burbank Police Department is confirming the arrest of Lucas Lepejian, 20, of North Hollywood,” Sgt. Emil Brimway of the Burbank Police Department said in a statement. “Mr. Lepejian was taken into custody on April 1, 2021, at about 7:45 p.m. in the city of Burbank, following a traffic stop. Mr. Lepejian was not arrested at Tinhorn Flats. He was booked on suspicion of violating a court order and then released with a citation to appear in court on a later date.”The city of Burbank called the situation challenging, saying the issue may not be easily understood or resolved, especially given the repeated acts of defiance from the business owner and his family.
“The Burbank Police Department vehemently condemns the actions of Tin Horn Flats and their persistent unlawful behavior,” Police Chief Scott LaChasse said in a statement. “We continue to make strategic decisions and take measured actions to keep our personnel and community safe. Sharing our plan prior to implementation could endanger lives. Our actions will always be based on protecting our public and in compliance with the law.”Baret Lepejian said he and his son plan to continue their mission to keep their doors open, having cut off locks from the restaurant a third time on April 2.
The dispute has gained media coverage locally and at least some national exposure. Baret Lepejian appeared on the “Varney & Co.” show on Fox Business Network.