A restaurant owner sued the state and Los Angeles County Monday to recoup money spent on state and local fees amid his challenges to stay open and operate during coronavirus restrictions.
Through his proposed Los Angeles Superior Court class-action complaint, Walter Schild seeks to be reimbursed for liquor licenses, health permits and state tourism assessments.
Schild is the CEO of Culinary Lab, which operates 33 Taps Hollywood and Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa. He says he pays about $7,000 a year in government fees in addition to property taxes, but has been unable to get the fees reduced or delayed.
“I’m being charged late fees up to 50% for failing to pay even though my restaurant has been closed for all about a month since mid-March,” Schild said in a statement released by his attorneys. “We’ve been pleading with lawmakers for fee relief and now we have no choice but to file a lawsuit.”
A representative for Los Angeles County did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
One of Schild’s attorneys, Brian Kabateck, said the money is important at a time when people’s jobs are at stake.
“We’re talking a couple of thousand dollars for the county permit and a couple of thousand dollars for the alcohol permit depending on the size of the restaurant and we recognize that, on an individual basis, it’s not a lot of money for these restaurants, but even returning a few thousand dollars right now can make the difference between them succeeding, laying people off or not laying people off,” Kabateck said. “We simply want the government to return those fees to those restaurants who followed the law and closed.”
Kabateck said restaurants have been one of the hardest-hit industries with restrictions set by state and local entities with bans on in-person dining in most of the state, even though owners have willingly adjusted their operations to comply with the closure orders.
“It’s offensive and tone-deaf for these entities to enforce these rules and charge fees for licenses and permits these businesses can’t use,” Kabateck said.
Additional proposed class-action complaints will be filed in the coming weeks in San Francisco, Orange, San Diego, Sacramento, Monterey and Placer counties, according to Kabateck.
“Even when the restrictions are lifted, the devastating impact on the restaurant industry will extend for years,” said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association. “Restaurants have not received any form of relief. Easing fees would help enable establishments to stay open and keep vulnerable workers employed.”