Tinhorn Lawsuit Moves One Step Closer to Trial

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By Doug Weiskopf
Special to myBurbank

Tinhorn Flats Saloon, formerly owned and operated by the Baret Lepejian family at 2623 W. Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank, has been the city’s long-running reality show now headed into its fifth year of controversy.

On Nov. 6, 2023, a hearing was held in which Ashley Clark represented the City of Burbank in person as its attorney, while Mr. Mark Geragos appeared on a large courtroom TV screen via Zoom, along with an attorney from his law office, Geragos & Geragos, Kimberly Casper, co-representing Tinhorn Flats’ legal interests in person. Presiding in the case was Judge Armer Tamzarian.

The Burbank vs Tinhorn Flats hearing went on much longer than the previous two cases ahead of theirs in Judge Tamzarian’s courtroom, and the level of contentiousness between the three lawyers and the judge was far greater. At issue was Burbank asking the court to prohibit the Lepejians from opening another alcohol-serving establishment within the city without proper health and business licenses.

The judge questioned Clark about her case being “moot”, since Tinhorn Flats had been out of business and the property it was located on was sold months ago. Clark seemed to struggle for an answer that satisfied the judge. No mention was made at the hearing concerning recouping from the Lepejians the large sums of financial costs the city claims were incurred by the months of much-needed police patrols for the constant street-demonstrating crowds of Tinhorn Flats supporters who waved Trump banners and Confederate flags while threatening possible violence if they did not get their way.

Geragos, a longtime Los Angeles attorney famous for his television and internet appearances and having represented many local celebrities, also appeared to struggle to make a case that the judge found satisfying. Geragos attempted to angrily charge, with no prior mention in his court briefs, that Burbank had singled out Tinhorn Flats for prosecution among seven other Burbank businesses who also protested having to close due to COVID, as ordered by the LA Country Health Dept. After much haranguing by Geragos, the judge ruled that Burbank acted appropriately against Tinhorn Flats in enforcing their laws and several court orders.

Geragos also tried to say that the Burbank Police had acted “improperly” by arresting Lucas Lepejian, the 20-year-old son of the Tinhorn Flats owner, Baret Lepejian, three times for tearing down the plywood boards the city had nailed on the entrances and then reopened the saloon using a portable generator since the city had cut off electrical power to it. The judge ruled that the city was within its rights to arrest Lucas for violating a clearly stated law. These legal decisions all but dismissed the counter-suit against the City of Burbank by the Lepejians. Tamzarian concluded the legal arguments by saying “the city had valid reasons to revoke Tinhorn Flat’s licenses” and that “the Lepejian’s conduct was unlawful.”

Casper seemed the least combative of the three lawyers at the hearing. She was willing to answer my questions afterward, even inviting me to email her if I needed further information. In contrast, Clark rather stoically refused to offer any comments. 

The next hearing in the City of Burbank vs Tinhorn Flats case is scheduled for Dec. 6, followed by a trial on Jan. 10. Unless either party appeals the judge’s decision, that should be the final episode of the long-running drama that was far more serious in 2020 and 2021, when the deadly infectious coronavirus was killing 1.1 million Americans in less than two years, with more than 100,000 of them in California.

It has now been reported that Baret Lepejian’s ex-wife, Isabelle, who divorced him in 2019, is not named in the lawsuit against the City of Burbank.

In November of 2021, the owner of the property, Isabelle Lepejian, sold the property that Tinhorn Flats sits on at 2623 W Magnolia Blvd. after evicting her former husband from the business in June of that year. Immediately after the property was sold, the City removed the fencing around the building.

The property’s new owner is Old Fashioned Investment, LLC, and they have filed paperwork with the City to open a new restaurant called Magnolia House.

(Below is a timeline published online by the City of Burbank listing their history with Tinhorn Flats Saloon’s months-long defiance of the law, which belies the complaining done by Geragos that the Lepejians were “singled out” among other Burbank businesses because they dared to complain about the covid shutdown).

June 15, 2021 – Tinhorn Flats Evicted by Property Owner

May 28, 2021 – LA County Superior Court denies request to dissolve preliminary injunction

April 9, 2021  LA County Superior Courts Grants Preliminary Injunction

March 16, 2021 – LA County Superior Court issues ruling to lock the doors

March 12, 2021 – LA County Superior Court issues ruling to authorize disconnecting electricity

March 8, 2021 – LA County Superior Court issues Temporary Restraining Order 

March 1, 2021 – City files lawsuit for violating Burbank Municipal Code and acting as a public nuisance

February 22, 2021 – City rescinded Conditional Use Permit for violating conditions of approval including operating without a health permit and creating a nuisance

January 27, 2021 – LA County Health Permit Revoked 

January 27, 2021 – The County files a lawsuit for violating Emergency Health Orders, LA County Codes and acting as a public nuisance. 

January 12, 2021 – County Counsel issues a Cease and Desist Order 

December 12, 2020 – LA County Health Permit Suspended 

December 10, 2020 – January 24, 2021 – 28 separate health inspections and violations

December 13, 2020 – February 9, 2021 – LA County Department of Health cited Tinhorn Flats 36 separate days for operating on a suspended/revoked health permit to operate the restaurant

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    2 COMMENTS

    1. Tinhorn Flats was fun and good restaurant. I ate there during 2020, and always saw the staff wearing masks and food being served on their outdoor patio, with the government suggested distancing between tables. If anything, government closing the restaurants in late 2020 was testament to how the touted masking and distancing simply wasn’t working – otherwise they would have left the restaurants open, right? Burbank didn’t close busy grocery stores, Costco, Target, banks, pot dispensaries, or a myriad of other businesses, but somehow thought they could target restaurants, many who suffered and closed due to these draconian covid ‘mandates’ – such over-reaching government tyranny that no one thought was possible, until it was.

      In hindsight, Burbank cities actions were ineffective, and California as a whole, which imposed some of the country’s most draconian mandates, lockdowns, closures, vaccine mandates, masking, & keeping schools closed the longest, etc, faired the worst in it’s results.

      Also, for anyone who didn’t want to risk leaving their house, and eat at a restaurant, they could have simply stayed home and minded their OWN business, instead of destroying someone else’s.

    2. You understand that Tinhorn Flats doesn’t exist within a vacuum, yes? That families lived in the area? That we were experiencing an unprecedented global pandemic and that the goal was to eliminate spread of a disease by having people stay home? Your declaration of personal choice ignores that actions have consequences more than just the immediate to an individual – especially in a disease control scenario. By remaining open in defiance of control efforts (contrary to what allllllll other restaurants and bars were doing at the time) the Lepejians potentially furthered the spread of a dangerous disease, put their neighbors at risk by inviting patrons to congregate in the area, and ignored all recommended, peer-reviewed at-the-time knowledge of the situation. They threatened health inspectors with violence. They continuously broke every law imposed on them. And what’s more, Baret Lepejian spearheaded this all from his cabana in Thailand, not personally liable to any constraint. Get a grip.

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