LOS ANGELES — An L.A.-Area restaurant owner was forced to break open his own bar Friday hours after local officials boarded up the establishment.
Tinhorn Flats co-owner Lucas Lepejian, 20, had to use power tools to rip off plywood obstructing entrances to the building and back patio the morning after law enforcement arrested him on a misdemeanor for violating coronavirus guidelines by servicing customers Thursday.
The plywood on the backdoor entrance of the brick-and-mortar building itself means officials must have climbed over the surrounding fence to board up the immigrant-run business.
Local officials boarded up inside doors of @TinhornFlats too. It appears they climbed over the fence into the establishment to board up entry to the building.
There’s no other way officials would have been able to access the back patio pic.twitter.com/qrszR0uzge
— Tristan Justice (@JusticeTristan) April 2, 2021
“I’m taking actions into my own hands,” Lepejian told The Federalist, as he prepared to saw off the plywood stuck to his doors by 6-inch nails.
For months, Lepejian, who runs the small Burbank joint with his sister has been engaged in a months-long dispute with local officials demanding the family close-up shop in compliance with draconian edicts handed down in the name of public health.
The conflict arose when Tinhorn Flats remained defiantly open for outdoor service after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down all restaurant dining in the state. Newsom, who was caught violating his own orders dining maskless indoors when it was prohibited in November, now faces a recall challenge where organizers submitted a more than two million signature petition to force a referendum on the ballot this year (at least 1,495,709 must be valid to trigger the special recall election).
The refusal of Tenhorn Flats to close, however, has provoked targeted retribution from local officials who filed a temporary restraining order to suspend its business license. The city shut off the establishment’s power three weeks ago after it continued to remain open. Lepejian and his sister, however, have resorted to operating on generators to keep their western-themed bar in service, which has garnered fines from regulators Lepejian said add up to $1,500 a day.
“It’s very frustrating that they’re the ones that turned off my power and then had the audacity to tell me that I can’t operate because of my electrical issues,” Lepejian said. “It’s not like we’ve never paid the electric bill, water bill, we’ve been up to date on all of those.”
The morning after his arrest, Lepejian returned to his shut down business to find it red-tagged where local officials warned the establishment was unsafe.
“DO NOT ENTER OR OCCUPY,” bolded notes read across its entrances.
Twice the bar had already been padlocked by Burbank City and twice Lepejian had sawed them off. Friday morning then, marked what’s become routine practice as local officials continue to weaponize their bureaucratic power to shut the Lepejian family out of work and down to the food bank.
Indoor dining is no longer banned in the area. In L.A. County, restaurants may offer indoor service at 25 percent capacity, though Tinhorn Flats has only kept its patio open in defiance of officials who want the bar shut down in its entirety.
Despite the avalanche of lawsuits and regulatory fines raining down on the establishment, with a full timeline kept by LAist here, Lepejian pledged Friday he and his family would keep fighting even if it required cash from loan sharks as fines continue to stack up. A GoFundMe page set up for the Tinhorn Flats Legal Defense Fund has so far reached more than $50,000 in donations.
“I want people to know,” Lepejian said before a few supporters who joined the re-opening Friday, “we’re not going to take any of these illegal shutdowns.”
California has been among the states hardest hit by the coronavirus panic spawning some of the harshest, most long-lasting lockdowns in the country with no results to show. The state ranks 48th in unemployment, despite possessing a slightly lower COVID-fatality rate than open Florida, which is home to a far higher population of senior citizens as a proportion of its residents.