Orange County agrees to $1.7 million settlement for businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions

COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) — Orange County has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit for $1.7 million to pay business owners government fees and expenses incurred when they are closed during the pandemic.

Among the businesses that will find relief in the settlement is Ortica Pizzeria, which has served the community near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa for 12 years. The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic were too great for the restaurant to survive.

“We’ve lost a lot of great employees and the company is permanently closed so we’ve suffered a lot of losses and debt due to COVID,” said owner Walter Schild.

Schild was among the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Orange County last year.

“We have over $100,000 in credit just for this restaurant in Costa Mesa that we have to pay back to the government,” Schild said.

He claimed the county collected property taxes and license fees while the restaurant had to follow COVID-19 restrictions that limited or closed indoor dining.

“We’ve been receiving bills from Orange County for the health department,” Schild said. “We were getting bills for inspections, for fire inspections, that weren’t there. We weren’t working so those bills came in and they exceeded $10,000.”

The Orange County Board of Supervisors recently agreed to settle the lawsuit with the condition that the county pay $1.7 million to settle the case.

This action provides some support and compensation to restaurant owners who were unable to work.

Schild said his restaurant’s share will at least help reduce maybe 3% or 4% of their debt.

Schild’s lawyer, Shant Karnikian of Kabateck LLP, said: “There will be a refund if it’s a restaurant that is no longer in business. They will be credited if the operation is ongoing and the business has continued so it will automatically go to everyone who this hit.”

The company has filed similar lawsuits on behalf of business owners against counties across California, including Los Angeles.

“(Los Angeles) County hasn’t stepped up yet and we’re hoping they’ll do the same as Orange County and show these businesses as a sign of good faith that we’ve got your back,” Karnikian said.

Schild also owns restaurants in Los Angeles County and said they earned $80,000 in fees there during the pandemic but were unable to do business.

He hopes the county can provide some relief for his and other struggling businesses.

We have reached out to LA County but have not heard back.

San Diego County recently settled a similar case for $4.5 million.

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