Last week Larchmont Bungalow owner, Albert Mizrahi was granted another extension in his criminal case ostensibly to allow his new lawyer time to prepare Mizrahi’s defense. Mizrahi was ordered back in court on March 17 at which time he has 30 days to plead or go to trial.
The case has been continued since March 2010 when the city first filed charges against Mizrahi for failing to comply with a city agency; providing false information; and continuing to operate without a certificate of occupancy.
In April of this year the criminal case was continued to June and continued again to December. However, City Attorney Serena Christion remains committed to prosecuting the case. Last April said Christion, “this case is far from over. There is no way we are ever going to dismiss this case; I don’t dismiss cases.”
Over the past several years, the Bungalow legal team has lost two motions they filed with the court seeking dismissal; the first asserting owner Mizrahi had been singled out and was being unfairly prosecuted and the second, that Mizrahi did not understand the covenant he signed with the city agreeing to operate as a take-out with no tables and chairs. “The city won both of those motions leaving Mr. Mizrahi without a defense,” explained Christion. “They tried to appeal those rulings to a higher court and the court refused to hear the case. Now, it’s time to plead it out.”
Christion won another case she filed against the Bungalow owner when he pleaded guilty to fire code violations for failing to file for a permit with the fire department and overcrowding. The Bungalow is currently on probation and is subject to frequent inspections by the fire department. According to a city inspector, the restaurant has been shut down four times since the three year probation began last year. The Bungalow can only allow 39 people (including staff) inside the restaurant at any time which is why there is often a line outside.
In other developments, the Bungalow has filed an appeal of the Central Area Planning Commission unanimous denial last fall of the Bungalow’s request for exemption from the zoning ordinance on Larchmont Boulevard that limits the number of restaurants. Mizrahi had also asked for a reduction in the parking required and an alcohol license to sell beer and wine. The appeal will be heard by the PLUM (Planning and Land Use Management) Committee of the City Council January 13 at 2:30 p.m. The hearing is open to the public.
Failure to win this appeal overturning the Planning Department report and Commission’s denial would force Mizrahi to finally bring his illegal restaurant operation into compliance with city code. Mizrahi would have to remove the tables and chairs and operate the Bungalow as the take out restaurant and retail space it was originally zoned for, and not as a restaurant. Some expect Bungalow lawyers to try to seek further delays as has been their tactic over the years.
Mizrahi has stymied the city’s enforcement actions against him since he opened in October 2009.