City crews on Sunday removed an unauthorized, temporary gas line someone had installed at a restaurant that just had its service cut as a penalty for violating COVID-19 rules.
Utility workers found the hose line after neighbors reported a gas leak, according to city spokesman Kevin Lee.
“We discovered an unauthorized flex connection from an adjacent unit’s gas supply running to the restaurant,” Lee said. “The latest is we have safely removed it.”
Dana Tanner, the owner of Restauration on Fourth Street, has continually refused to stop serving customers on her restaurant’s patio despite state and local health orders banning all dine-in service.
On Saturday afternoon, Long Beach shut off her gas in the hopes of forcing her to comply with COVID-19 rules—an unprecedented step for the city—which has already charged her with four misdemeanors and fined her six times for failing to comply.
Instead of closing, Tanner was back open by Sunday morning. She said she’d been working overnight to convert her kitchen to electricity.
However, neighbor Vivian Hurtado alleged that last night she heard someone tampering with the gas meter, which is shared between a small residential building and the restaurant, and when she confronted the people involved, Tanner identified herself.
Hurtado said she and her husband then heard a high-pitched noise that sounded like a leak followed by the smell of gas. In the morning, Hurtado alleges she heard more tampering, such as the sound of tools banging, and discovered her gas pilot lights were out. Out of concern, she then called the gas company.
“I was scared,” she said, worried that lighting something could spark an explosion.
Tanner on Sunday denied having anything to do with the unauthorized gas line. Her attorney, Bryan Schroeder, said a neighbor installed the connection without Tanner’s knowledge and she thought the city had reactivated her service.
Tanner has repeatedly said she’s not making a profit by staying open and is only breaking the rules so she can keep providing paychecks to her employees.
On Sunday, customers were still arriving at Restauration as utility crews and firefighters pulled up to investigate the odor of gas. Police officers accompanied them to keep the peace in case there was any conflict, a spokeswoman for the department said.
After Tanner initially refused to let them on her property, they found the unauthorized connection at the nearby meter and removed it.
“A police report was taken and is being provided to the City’s Venue Task Force and subsequently to the City Prosecutor’s Office to see if any additional legal charges are warranted against Restauration,” Lee, the city spokesman, said in a statement.
Tanner has received blowback for staying open, but she’s also garnered about $5,000 in donations to an online fundraiser for her legal defense.
Brandon Richardson contributed to this report.