“No Morons Allowed” reads the sign at Big Daddy O’s Beach BBQ, a 22-year-old business on Roosevelt Boulevard in the Oxnard surfing community of Silver Strand.
Hit with a string of county zoning and code violations, the popular restaurant may be forced to close its doors to more than just morons.
When Art Pina bought the business more than two decades ago, it came essentially as it is now: a small kitchen and a converted dining room that seats about 20 people.
But last year, Pina received notices of violation from Ventura County Code Compliance Division that his restaurant was zoned for takeout only, and the entire dining room was, in sum, an illegal operation.
“If I had to go to takeout only, I would go out of business,” said Pina, adding that the bulk of his business is dine-in.
In 2002, Pina said, code compliance informed him that he needed to remove his patio furniture and, in its place, provide four parking spots or else he’d be subjected to fines. He complied. But the patio dining was a major attraction in sunny Silver Strand, where most of the clientele were local and the parking spots therefore unnecessary, Pina said. He and supporters in the community contacted then-Supervisor John Flynn about the issue. According to Pina, Flynn was sympathetic and told him he could reinstate his patio.
Ten years later, a code compliance officer showed up again and Pina was hit with additional building code violations. Public records show that in September of 2002, the property also received notices of noncompliance for non-permitted conversion of a takeout restaurant to dine-in, among other zoning issues.
Fines were issued, some of which Pina has been able to pay, but he anticipates it would cost more than $10,000 to bring the business up to code. Civil administrative penalties of $625 per day are being stayed until an agreement can be reached.
What baffles Pina is that there have been no complaints about his business. The violations stem from previous tenants, and now, suddenly, after more than two decades, he said, code compliance is throwing the book at him.
“So for 22 years you haven’t been doing your job?” said Pina about the code compliance division. “When I try to work with them, it’s one step forward, three steps back. It gets worse and worse with them.”
Jim Delperdang, director of Ventura County Code Compliance, said the issue isn’t as gray as it has been made out to be.
“He has a permit to operate a takeout restaurant,” said Delperdang. “But he has gone outside (to the patio), to the space next door (dining area). He’s gone to the press, to the community but is still in violation. He doesn’t think getting permits applies to him. But the answer is, ‘No. Rules apply to everybody.’ We’ve told him what he needs to do for operation compliance.”
Supervisor John Zaragoza is well aware of the issue and said that a Jan. 14 meeting is scheduled with his office, Pina and department agencies to remedy the pending issue.
“He (Pina) is an icon there,” said Zaragoza. “We want to help him as much as we can and bring him here, talk to him and make sure we’re all on the same page and how to help him comply. He does good work and we want to keep him in business.”
Oxnard Harbor Commissioner and Silver Strand resident Jason Hodge said that it should be an easy fix in favor of Pina because Pina thought he was legally entitled to operate the business as he purchased it. To force him to pay, he said, is an undue burden on Pina, and it is the outdated building codes that need inspection.
“The problem with these one-size-fits-all zoning and building codes is, they become outdated by 30, 40, 50 years,” said Hodge. “He was allowed to open a restaurant there 22 years ago. People have been born, gone to college and have had children since Art has been doing business in that location. And now, because of an oversight years ago, you’re going to potentially put somebody out of business who is a service to our community?”