By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
According to the agreement in July 2009, the partners would get an empty, new city building suitable for transforming into a restaurant. Construction delays prevented them from starting, the partners say, but officials from the General Services Department appeared willing to work with them.
Vagarshakian and Simon say Perry's office stepped in to smooth difficulties.
Vagarshakian says they were supposed to take possession of the building in March 2009, but due to various delays, the city didn't turn it over until February 2010. They couldn't open by the agreed date of March 2010, so, he claims, city officials gave them 140 more working days.
Simon says one reason they were chosen by the City Council was because they planned to give back to the community. And indeed, they wasted no time in doing so, catering an event for the Los Angeles Police Foundation and handling the breakfast for the swearing-in of Police Chief Charlie Beck a year ago. John Mack, president of the L.A. Police Commission, wrote to thank them: "Your work reflected nothing but professionalism and graciousness, and you were truly a pleasure to work with."
Last spring, Vagarshakian and Simon used the unfinished restaurant to participate in Art Walk, which draws big crowds to cafés and galleries. Vagarshakian says they obtained permits. The city's General Services Department even provided tables for their events, which included art displays and live music, while council members Eric Garcetti and Perry provided chairs.
But in September, an LAPD officer issued them a citation — for holding an unauthorized event. Vagarshakian says he went to court, showed a judge his permits and got the citation dismissed.
Then on Friday, Sept. 17, with a few weeks of interior finishing to be done, the General Services Division notified L.A. Reflections that its lease was being terminated and it had three days to get out. On Monday, Sept. 20, they filed an objection. On Sept. 23, Trutanich filed an eviction suit.
Vagarshakian says they had expected to open as soon as the finishing work and issues with the city over where to place a pollution control device — about the size of an industrial AC unit — were resolved.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, city officials give a sharply different version of events.
They say Vagarshakian could have taken possession of the space in October 2009, but chose not to. They deny that the city agreed to give the men 140 extra days last March.
City officials accuse L.A. Reflections of inviting artgoers inside the unfinished restaurant during Art Walk — and serving alcohol.
Vagarshakian says wine was served at a private event during one Art Walk, but not to public passersby.
Either way, it's an interesting issue for City Hall to get its dander up about. Alcohol is widely served throughout Art Walk by galleries and boutiques. It has become a point of contention among LAPD, Art Walk organizers, the business community and others.
But evicting a new company with nearly $1 million sunk into a project?
Vagarshakian insists, "All these city officials knew what we were doing! Why weren't we issued citations at the time? Why was the citation that was issued dismissed?"
Simon mutters darkly about "an abuse of political power." After all the years they've worked in the Civic Center, they're mystified by the way they've been dealt with.
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