As Restauration owner still refuses to close, her attorney tries an uncommon legal defense

A Long Beach restaurant owner facing nearly two dozen misdemeanors for refusing to close her restaurant during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak is continuing to fight the charges, even as she keeps her restaurant open despite the city insisting she’s still operating illegally.

An attorney for Dana Tanner, the owner of Restauration on Fourth street, was back in court today for a second arraignment hearing, but for the second time in a month, no plea was entered on behalf of Tanner.

Bryan Schroeder, Tanner’s attorney, had tried to enter a plea last month of “once in jeopardy,” essentially claiming that Tanner was improperly being tried for the same crimes twice given that she was already punished through city administrative process where her license to operate was taken away.

At that original court hearing, Judge Amy Yerkey gave Schroeder a month to provide evidence for the rarely used plea.

At today’s hearing, Schroeder said he has subpoenaed copies of citations and emails from the city so he could prove the city’s intent to punish Tanner through the administrative process, even subpoenaing the city manager to testify, but had not received a response from the city.

“I can’t do it unless the court gives me more time,” Shroeder said of providing grounds for the double jeopardy defense.

Yerkey chastised Schroeder for not being ready to move forward. She noted that he has the burden of proof to show that Tanner was being prosecuted twice for the same crimes if she wishes to enter that plea.

“You come into my court unprepared and late on a regular basis,” Yerkey said, noting that Schroeder has ethical obligations to clients to be prepared. “Tell me how much time you need to be prepared the next time you come into my court.”

The arraignment was postponed to April 8 and the city is expected to provide Schroeder with the documents he requested some time next week so he’ll have time to prepare for the hearing.

Meanwhile, Tanner said in an interview that she’d like to avoid a trial if possible and that she’s been trying to broker a deal with the city out of court that could allow her to reopen legally.

Dana Tanner, right, owner of Restauration, looks on as Long Beach Gas Department employees examine her building’s gas connection after a reported leak, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Tanner said she’s continued to operate Restauration for the past two months despite the city shutting off her gas, stripping her of her health permit, removing a parklet in front of building and filing 21 misdemeanor charges against her—including accusations that she caused a gas leak by running a makeshift gas line to her restaurant, something she’s denied. The number of citations could grow if city inspectors observe her serving patrons again.

“I’m just trying to focus on running my business, and it’s been hard,” Tanner said.

Since the city shut off her gas, Tanner has been operating off of electricity and propane to prepare meals for diners. It hasn’t been ideal, she said, but she said she has a new group of regulars that have been coming in twice a week in some cases.

Tanner acknowledged the uniqueness of the backdrop of her battle with the city. Restaurants were allowed to reopen for outdoor dining in late January and with case-rates continuing to fall in Los Angeles County, health officials are on the verge of authorizing more reopenings.

Shortly after court adjourned today, Mayor Robert Garcia announced that the city would soon be moving into the state’s “red” tier, the second most restrictive for reopening, which would allow restaurants and other businesses to reopen indoor operations with limited capacity in a matter of days.

Tanner, however, will still not be allowed to legally operate her restaurant because of her revoked permit.

“It’s hilarious,” Tanner said. “I don’t understand it. The city wants to make me out to be the bad guy.”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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