Friday morning, Albert Mizrahi, owner of the Larchmont Bungalow restaurant at 107 N. Larchmont, appeared before Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Harris and pleaded no contest to three criminal counts filed against him by the City of Los Angeles in 2010.
In a deal with the City, which had charged Mizrahi and Larchmont Village Partners, Inc. with violating an order to comply with city codes, providing false information on required documentation, and operating without a permit, Mizrahi agreed to plead no contest in exchange for probation and suspending his sentencing for 18 months. During that time, he must bring the illegal restaurant into compliance with City zoning codes, and agree to pay all the costs incurred by the City’s Department of Building and Safety to investigate and prosecute the case.
Additionally, as part of the deal, City Attorney Serena Christion stipulated that Mizrahi acknowledge that, if he is not in compliance by the end of the 18-month probation, he could be forced to close the restaurant. Christion told the Buzz she wanted to make certain that Mizrahi would not be able to file another appeal at the end of the probation period.
In order to bring the Larchmont Bungalow into compliance with the zoning code, Mr. Mizrahi must either remove all his tables and chairs and operate as a take-out only business, or secure additional parking required by the city for full service restaurants. According to Todd Maland, Investigator at the LA Department of Building and Safety, the Larchmont Bungalow does not have sufficient parking to operate as a restaurant, even if it were permitted by the Larchmont “Q” Conditions, which limit the number of full-service restaurants on the street.
Mr. Mizrahi was ordered to return to court on August 3, 2016 for a progress report on his efforts to comply, as well as to receive the accounting of costs from the LA Department of Building and Safety. Following that session, Mr. Mizrahi will have to appear on August 7, 2017 for his final sentencing.
Over the past five years, Mr. Mizrahi and his legal team have avoided entering a plea in the criminal case by initially convincing the City Attorney’s office to put it on hold while Mizrahi filed and litigated a civil case against the City, claiming he had been treated unfairly in the permitting and enforcement process. The City won the civil case in 2012, but Mizrahi’s legal team won several more continuances in the criminal case, while his lawyers pursued numerous efforts to gain an exemption from the “Q” Conditions by challenging the ordinance’s definition of a “restaurant.” They took their argument all the way to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which ultimately rejected their arguments.
Reportedly, Mizrahi’s legal team, most recently headed up by former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, was assured that City Attorney Serena Christion would not dismiss the criminal case and decided it was time for Mr. Mizrahi to enter a plea of no contest and to conform to the City’s zoning code or be forced to go to trial.