Pandemic fallout: Why California restaurants are suing the state

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Thousands of California restaurants are cooking up a plan, that would put back some of the money they’ve spent to stay open, back in their pockets. 

The class-action lawsuit would require a number of counties, and the state to give the restaurants back money paid in fees, licenses, and permits. 

There’s no doubt that restaurants have been among the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic.  

Many have had to pay thousands in fees, permits, and licenses to stay open. 

This new lawsuit would look to put some of that money back in the hands of owners. 

Crippled by changing COVID-19 restrictions, California’s 60,000 restaurants have watched their bottom lines crumble during the pandemic. 

“These restaurant owners have followed the law and done what they’re supposed to do but ultimately they’ve paid fees that they should get at least a part of it back,” attorney Brian Kabateck said.

Despite losing thousands of dollars in revenue, restaurants have still been forced to pay thousands in fees, and permits in order to stay open. 

Attorney Brian Kabateck says it’s not fair.  

“It’s simply all about the fees, fees they’ve paid to the government. The same government that’s closed them,” Kabateck said. 

He’s now leading a group of California restaurant owners in a class-action lawsuit, that would require the counties and the state to return a portion of the fees collected back to the owners. 

“What this amounts to for most restaurants is anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars a year to $10,000 on average, but as far as the state is concerned, we’re talking well over a $100 million in fees that’s restaurants pay throughout the state of California in order to operate,” Kabateck said. 

So far, lawsuits have been filed in San Diego, Orange, San Francisco, and Sacramento counties.

The lawsuit is welcome news to Luis Mier.

For 34-years, his family has run La Canasta. Since the pandemic, he says business has dropped by 30-percent, and while he says returning the fees won’t make up for what he’s lost, it will help.

“In the end, it means a lot to these restaurant owners and ultimately in the end, this is just a question of fundamental fairness,” Mier said.

Several counties, including San Francisco, have had discussions on refunding the fees but so far, Fresno appears to be the only one putting the wheels in motion. 

We’re told more lawsuits will be filed in more Bay Area counties, including Contra Costa, Alameda, and San Mateo counties in the coming weeks.

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