Jury Finds Drive-In Owners Not Guilty of Violating Zoning Law : Anaheim Loses in Its Beef With Angelo’s

Times Staff Writer

After years of disputes with Angelo’s Hamburgers, a popular drive-in restaurant, the City of Anaheim and the restaurant faced off before a jury for the first time this week.

The issue: outdoor tables and chairs. The verdict: not guilty.

“This was a garbage case. My clients were doing exactly what they were told to do. There was no reason to file it,” said Michelle A. Reinglass, an attorney for Angelo’s, referring to the case which ended Thursday following a four-day jury trial.

City officials said Friday they had not decided their next step. The owners of Angelo’s said they were relieved by the jury’s decision but view it as “temporary relief” in a continuing war with the city.


The latest issue surfaced last November, when the city filed misdemeanor criminal charges against Angelo’s, alleging violation of zoning laws that require a special permit for an outdoor patio. Between June and November, the city gave co-owners Anthony Strammiello and Dennis Williams two warnings.

Signature Difficulties

Strammiello and Williams said they were in the process of acquiring the permit when the city filed charges. The owners said they were having problems obtaining their landlords’ signature on the permit request.

They added that the dispute with their landlord is part of an ongoing landlord-tenant dispute which flares whenever the city requires the landlord’s signature on any new permit application.


Williams said he was outraged by the filing of criminal charges, saying, “It’s a real insult to my character. When you think of a criminal, you think of robbers, of drunk driving. Hey, I’m not a criminal. I’m not.”

Had Angelo’s owners been found guilty of the misdemeanor, they could have faced a maximum $500 fine and six months in jail, said John Poole, head of Anaheim’s code enforcement.

Strammiello said the charges were “part of the harassment process and discrimination that they’re using against Angelo’s. Others have tables and chairs. And who cares? Nobody cares.”

But a neighbor of Angelo’s cared, said Anaheim Deputy City Atty. Terese M. Scanlon. And like other nearby residents who have complained for years about the traffic, noise and litter that the restaurant attracts during its monthly “Cruise Night,” the neighbor filed a complaint with the city’s code enforcement office.


Warning Issued

“We don’t stand around Angelo’s and wait for them to make a violation. We respond to citizens’ complaints,” Scanlon said.

Senior Code Enforcement Officer Richard D. La Rochelle said he responded to the complaint, found Angelo’s had outside tables and chairs without a proper permit and warned the restaurant to get a permit.

La Rochelle said he was never told that conflicts with Angelo’s landlords had delayed the restaurant’s move to obtain the permit. According to La Rochelle, the last time he heard from the restaurant’s owners was Oct. 9.


“All I wanted them to do is comply with the code. And I gave them every opportunity to do so,” La Rochelle said.

Added Poole: “It’s not harassment. All we’re asking them to do is comply with code requirements.”

In previous years, the city filed various complaints against the ‘50s-style drive-in at 511 S. State College Boulevard, but the charges--such as whether the restaurant could have carhops--were dismissed or dropped.

Scanlon said she was “shocked” that the city lost its case. She said the city was “left with no option” but to file charges because Angelo’s “dragged their feet” in getting the necessary permit for the outdoor eating area.


City Atty. Jack L. White on Friday afternoon said the city could now file another criminal complaint, among other options.

Strammiello said Angelo’s will continue to negotiate with its landlord to obtain the necessary signature for the city permit.

Meanwhile, the owners of Angelo’s plan to appeal to the City Council a denial of their bid to sell beer and wine and open an outdoor eating area at another outlet, Reinglass said Friday.

The city’s Planning Commission denied the restaurant’s request earlier this month because the new outlet at 211 N. Beach Blvd, which opened about three months ago, never received approval as a drive-in, drive-through restaurant.