California restaurants want to recover fees paid while closed during COVID

A Southern California attorney is suing on behalf of restaurants across the state saying the establishments shouldn't have to pay the regular business and license fees while being shut down. 

At least one restaurant in San Francisco has joined on, which allows the lawsuit to proceed in the city. 

San Francisco said it is already taking steps to try and keep those eateries afloat. 

According to the class-action suit, cities and the state should forgive any fees associated with running restaurants while they are forced to shut keep their doors closed during the pandemic. 

"So this lawsuit simply says for the time you were closed, you forced us to close in whole or in part, we deserve a pro rata share of our fees that we paid you back," said attorney Brian Kabateck.

Kabateck is representing the restaurants in the lawsuit, including The Blue Light in San Francisco.

The Blue Light's owner said he signed on to help raise awareness about the struggles many restaurants are facing and said he appreciates any efforts on behalf of the city to make things easier for restaurant owners.

Kabateck said any fees over this last year could make or break a business. 

"What we're talking about is a relatively small amount of money on each restaurant basis. So restaurants probably pay anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 a more per year in these kinds of fees," he said. "But, this money makes a huge difference at this time."

The San Francisco City Attorney's Office said it is aware of the lawsuit but says the city has already taken significant steps to suspend fees and help small businesses.

City Attorney Spokesperson John Cote released a statement that said in part, "The City has provided more than $24 million in grants and loans, and recently waived an additional $5 million in fees for our hardest-hit small businesses, like restaurants."

The office also highlighted the mayor's announcement Tuesday that San Francisco will provide an additional $62 million for small business relief.

The attorney spearheading the suit said he is currently looking for restaurants throughout the state and Bay Area to join.

"We've filed in all the large counties throughout California, all the Bay Area counties, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara," said Kabateck. "We're going to file in all of them."

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association released the following statement, "We are not involved in the lawsuit, but we're watching it to see if any additional fee relief is forthcoming, which is critically needed for our industry."