Wednesday, April 15, 2015
C.A. Upholds Ruling That Popular Eatery Is Public Nuisance
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday upheld a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s ruling that a longstanding hamburger eatery in South Central Los Angeles must hire a security guard and limit its operating hours if it wants to stay in business.
Tam’s Burgers No. 6 has been operated at the corner of Figueroa and 101st streets in South Central Los Angeles, for more than 30 years, by Jack Benetatos and his son Nick Benetatos.
The pair have argued that they have made the best of a bad situation, providing needed nourishment in the middle of an area where few would want to do business, one which they acknowledge is overrun with prostitutes and their customers, drug dealers and their customers, and common brawlers and thieves.
But retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien, sitting on assignment, sided with the Los Angeles Police Department, zoning authorities, and the City Council, who have insisted that any further operation of the business be conditioned upon the taking of more than 20 specific steps to rid the property of criminals and loiterers.
The owners maintained that they have done most of what the LAPD and others have urged, removing a payphone from the property—at a revenue loss of $200 monthly—removing tables for outdoor seating, and causing a 15 percent decline in revenues. But they have resisted the city’s insistence that they close at 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends and that they have a security guard on the premises from 5 p.m. until closing, among other things.
Those conditions, imposed by the council at the urging of Councilmember Mitchell Englander, are more stringent than what the zoning administrator recommended, which was to force closing at midnight during the week and 2 a.m. on weekends, and require a security guard from dusk to closing.
Justice Richard Mosk, writing for Div. Five of the Court of Appeal, said O’Brien’s ruling was supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. He rejected the owners’ contention that the judge should have exercised independent judgment, saying that the Benetatoses merely showed that the conditions would make the business less profitable, not that they would force it to close, so fundamental rights are not at stake.
Business owners, the justice acknowledged, are not responsible for dangerous and anti-social conditions that they do not create. But they can be required to ameliorate those conditions within their abilities, and the Benetatoses did not do that, Mosk said the evidence shows.
Appellate counsel were Benjamin M. Reznik and Matthew D. Hinks of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell for the Benetatoses, and Deputy City Attorney Amy Brothers for Los Angeles.
The case is Benetatos v. City of Los Angeles, 15 S.O.S. 1863.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company