Restaurants across Long Beach got the OK to reopen outdoor dining on Tuesday—except for one that had been openly defying coronavirus rules. Instead, Restauration and its owner are in even deeper legal jeopardy than before.
Because it had been flouting the ban by illegally hosting customers on its patio, the Fourth Street restaurant had its health permit revoked earlier this month.
After state and local officials lifted the ban on outdoor dining this week, Restauration owner, Dana Tanner, says she reapplied for a permit, but for the time being, she has no avenue to operate legally.
City officials didn’t immediately say whether they’d consider giving her a new permit, but in the meantime, they’re escalating their case against Tanner.
Long Beach has already fined Tanner at least half a dozen times, shut off gas to her restaurant and filed four misdemeanor charges against her for breaking state and local health orders.
Now, Long Beach will file a host of new misdemeanor charges accusing her of operating without a health permit and running an illegal gas line to her restaurant after her service was shut off, City Prosecutor Doug Haubert confirmed Wednesday.
Haubert originally charged Tanner with two counts of allegedly serving diners on her patio where they were seated close together and not wearing masks on Jan. 8 and 9. This was during the height of the local coronavirus outbreak when Long Beach was seeing almost 5,000 new coronavirus infections per week and hospitals were preparing guidelines for how to ration care.
“Since that time, cases were presented against the same defendant for tampering with gas lines, allowing construction of an unpermitted gas line, and operation of a restaurant without a required health permit,” Haubert said in an email. “In addition, evidence was presented that she continued to operate on-premises dining in violation of state and local health orders on January 14, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24. After reviewing all of the allegations, we added charges for these violations.”
Tanner denies installing the makeshift gas line, which ran from a nearby meter to her restaurant.
She says a supportive neighbor asked how he could help her stay open and she joked that she would love to have her gas back. Soon enough, she says, her stove and other appliances started working again.
But that was short lived. Neighbors—fearing an explosion—reported a gas leak at the meter, and authorities quickly removed the unauthorized line.
Tanner was closed Monday, as she normally is, but reopened Tuesday. She said she’s converted her kitchen to run on electricity and is serving a limited menu. She’s repeatedly said she’s not turning a profit right now and she’s staying open to support her employees.
“I’m frustrated,” Tanner said Wednesday. “I just want to operate. This is crazy.”
Despite the fact that she’s admittedly running the restaurant illegally, Tanner said customers were still arriving to eat on Restauration’s patio and buying gift cards to support her.
Other than defying the outdoor dining ban, Tanner insists she’s followed all the other coronavirus rules and avoided any outbreaks at the restaurant. Earlier this month, she also encouraged other businesses to join her in violating the rules.
For now, Tanner said, she has no plans to close, but eviction, too, could be on the horizon after the city warned her landlord that they could be held liable if they continue to let Tanner break the rules on their property.