Restaurant owners ask for relief from fees amid COVID shutdowns

The reality for restaurants across the state is that many are closed and struggling to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Walter Schild says he had to permanently shut down two of his restaurants. He says he called officials in Orange County to get help.

"I've got thousands of dollars in bills for a business that you shut down and she said well that's the law you have to pay it and by the way if you don't pay this there's a 50% penalty after 30 days and then we're going to levy at your bank account," says Schild.

Schild and other owners say even though officials have shut them down they're still demanding money for health permits, fees, business taxes and liquor licenses even though they can't sell liquor. Restaurants from Los Angeles to San Francisco have filed class action lawsuits against the state and local governments.

Attorney Brian Kabateck is representing these restaurants. "They're following the law," Kabateck said. "They're doing what they're told and at the same time the government is sitting there with its hand out saying pay us the permit fees that we're charging you to operate your business that we're not letting you operate."

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"They are demanding that we pay thousands of dollars in health permit fees, liquor license fees, business license fees -- those are all fixed," according to Schild.

Restaurant owners say they're not arguing about re-opening right now. They want that to be done safely, but as long as they can't open, they say they need relief.

"I need the refund now so I can pay my food supply or I can pay my utility bill," says Schild.

Kabateck says officials need to do this quickly.

"It's simple," he said. "Give them their money back, give them a fair pro-rata share of their money back. That's what we're asking."

The state's Alcohol Beverage Control agency, which issues licenses, says it can't comment because of the pending lawsuit. On its website it does say the governor in his new budget is calling to waive fees for 2021.
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