After his father retired in the late 1980s, Nick Benetatos has owned and operated Tam’s Burgers in South Central Los Angeles. And although his shop has withstood everything from recession to the infamous 1992 L.A. riots –
– it was no match for zoning board officials.
“When the markets were burned down, liquor stores were burned down, everything was burned down, people had nowhere to go, they came to us. We were handing out loaves of bread for free,” Benetatos told ReasonTV.
“We have much love for the community. And the community obviously has much love for us,” he adds.
Sadly, though, Tam’s Burgers will close permanently next year because city officials have succeeded in regulating it out of existence:
The trouble between Benetatos and the city began after authorities decided his restaurant was a contributing factor to the area’s crime rate.
“It has a nexus and a connection to a disproportionate amount of criminal activity,” Detective Eric Moore, head of LAPD’s Nuisance Abatement unit, told Reason.
But it’s not as if Benetatos didn’t try to work with the city.
The police asked him to remove payphones, so he removed the payphones. Then they asked him to remove tables for outdoor seating, and he removed the tables for outdoor seating (it resulted in a 15 percent drop in revenues). Then the city’s zoning board ordered him to comply with 22 separate conditions, including hiring a full-time security guard, putting up fences, and installing a security camera system.
Needless to say, Benetatos couldn’t afford to keep up with the city’s demands.
“The LAPD wants to control my business and run it in their view of how it should be run, and I’m trying to run it in the view that I’ve been here for 30 years and know how it should be run, and I’m successful,” he said.
Benetatos appealed the zoning board’s conditions at a recent city council meeting. They turned him down.
And that is how L.A. officials regulated a long-standing neighborhood burger joint out of existence.
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