HomeCity NewsJudge Dismisses Tinhorn Flats Lawsuits

Judge Dismisses Tinhorn Flats Lawsuits

By City News Service

Dueling lawsuits between the city of Burbank and the former owner of the Tinhorn Flats Saloon & Grill and his children have been formally dismissed following the city’s shutdown of the eatery in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Armen Tamzarian entered a judgment of dismissal in the suits brought by the city and former Tinhorn Flats owner Baret Lepejian, who brought the countersuit along with his operating company, Barfly Inc., and children Lucas and Talya Lepejian.

The city had started the dueling litigation by filing a public nuisance suit against the restaurant and the Lepejian family members in March 2021. Earlier that year, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health revoked Tinhorn Flats’ health permit, and its conditional-use permit was subsequently canceled by the Burbank City Council. A preliminary injunction required the business to stay closed until it obtained the legally required permits to reopen.

The city maintained that the restaurant was an ongoing public nuisance. The county and city actions took place after numerous complaints were received about the eatery’s continued offering of outdoor dining on its patio in violation of the applicable health officer orders at the time, when such activity was banned in Los Angeles County, according to the city’s court papers.

The outdoor dining prohibition was relaxed in late January 2021, but Tinhorn Flats was not allowed to resume business because of its lack of permits.

Later, the city sought a court order prohibiting Barfly from operating the Tinhorn Flats without the necessary permits, allowing the city to deny electricity to the business and padlock the doors.

However, in dismissing the city’s complaint, the judge found that its claims were now moot, noting in part that Baret Lepejian has said he has not returned to the property and does not intend to open another restaurant.

In June 2021, Baret Lepejian’s ex-wife, Isabelle Lepejian, obtained possession of the Burbank restaurant, successfully completing an eviction process she initiated against the eatery as the property owner. She also is the mother of the Lepejian children, including Lucas Lepejian, then 20, who was arrested by Burbank police for being on the property when he was allegedly not permitted to be there and often railed against the COVID-19 health mandates, affecting the business.

Isabelle Lepejian later sold the property to Old Fashioned Investment LLC.

In their countersuit, Barfly said the city tried to chill the Lepejians’ free-speech rights by enforcing rules specifically against Tinhorn Flats, but not other restaurants, with the intent of silencing and punishing them for expressing their beliefs. Barfly also maintained that studies prove that outdoor dining provides key areas of health and wellness that were sacrificed unnecessarily under the guise of eliminating a threat to health.

But in his ruling, the judge said Barfly produced no evidence of a connection between the city’s actions and free-speech infringement.

First published in the December 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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