The wheelchair-using man who is suing the landlord of 16th Street empanada destination Chile Lindo for disabled access violations returned this week -- to buy some meat pies. He ended up getting them served with a heavy side of sass from
"The Girl From Empanada," aka owner Paula Tejeda.
The confrontation ended up with litigious diner Craig Yates allegedly referring to the empanadas as "muffins," his attorney uttering "Take [Tejeda's] legs off and tell her to go crawl in there," and Tejeda enthusiastically calling it a "scene." We are not making this up.
SF Weekly was the bearer of some bad news to Tejeda earlier this
week: The six-month-old takeout joint is one of many mom-and-pop
eateries -- or their landlords -- in the Mission being targeted in the most
recent spate of disability access lawsuits brought by notorious attorney
back in 2007, Frankovich is a San Francisco-based litigator with a penchant for
cowboy boots and references to General Patton, who has made a legal practice of suing
places that his wheelchair-using proxies find in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Frankovich's most frequent San Francisco flier, Yates, has had a recent two-wheeled
field day in the Mission. In addition to the building that houses Chile Lindo, he's filed suit against Cafe Gratitude, Elsy's Pupuseria, Mikado Sushi, Pete's Bar-B-Q, and Balompie Cafe. Yates has also targeted
says she got a letter from Yates earlier this year saying he couldn't
enter her restaurant and suggesting she make changes to put her in
compliance with the law, but she tore it up in disgust. Chile Lindo is a
take-out restaurant, not a sit-down, she says, and they've always
accomodated Yates: "He comes to the front door and we hand him an
empanada," Tejeda says. "Where's a wheelchair going to fit in there? If
you're too fat, you won't fit in there."
The lawsuits have other
Mission eateries rushing to ensure they're compliant. Kosta Koutoulas, the manager
of Pete's Bar-B-Q received a letter from Yates, complaining about the
door that opens outwards at the top of the slope. He replaced the door
now, though Frankovich has not dropped the suit.
"It's going to be like Patton on his way to Berlin," Frankovich says of
restaurants who don't correct their wrongs before he files suit. "If you
don't go ahead and get it taken care of, Big Bertha is going to level
the guns and clear the decks." Yes, that was what he said. Verbatim.
Frankovich says he has no patience for the "mom-and-pop crap" as an
excuse to not be complaint with ADA requirements that
have been in effect since 1990. "Quit your crying and wimping and I'm a
minority, because they are picking on the most deprived of minorities."
Frankovich says often, as in the case of Chile Lindo, he doesn't sue the
restaurant if it appears they don't make much money. He instead goes
after the building's landlords, although he says that in "95 percent" of
cases, the landlords will then file suit on the restaurants, saying
it's their problem to get compliant with the law.
The State Bar charged Frankovich in 2008
with two disciplinary charges for allegations of extorting settlements,
seeking to mislead a judge, and committing acts of moral turpitude. Yet
the State Bar Court cleared Frankovich, only finding him guilty of an
unrelated matter of improperly communicating with a represented party in
a foreign jurisdiction. (Frankovich says it was a phone call that
lasted 35 seconds.) He received a public reproval and was ordered to
attend a session at the State Bar Ethics School.
But Tejeda says
lawyers like Frankovich abuse the spirit of disability law. "It's really
disgusting. When people are having such a hard time running their
businesses nobody needs this added stress. It is clearly not a case
where someone with a disability has been discriminated [against], but
rather it's a way of milking a law that was put in place to benefit the
handicapped community. These people have no compassion for the people they
say they represent; rather they're just a mafia."
So now comes
the real drama. While Tejeda was shocked to be named in a suit, the real
surprise rolled up to her eatery this week: Yates had returned wanting to order two
beef empanadas. Tejeda recounts the episode that ensued after she
marched up to him: "I said, 'Excuse me, what's your name?' And he said,
'Craig,' and I said, 'You're suing me, and and I'm like you're not
coming here to buy my empanadas.' He said 'I'm not suing you, I'm suing
your landlord.' And I said, 'No, you're affecting my business. ... He
looked at me with an expression that was so passive-aggressive like
trying to play innocent, and I'm like, 'What you're doing is
Tejeda says her sister had already taken Yates'
order and his $10.95 for the two meat pies. "So I handed him the
empanadas and he said to my sister, 'She isn't going to sell me any more
muffins?' He didn't call them empanadas. He called them muffins." Talk
about rubbing salt on the wound. "It was a scene!"
it was a small dose of vindication. "I was so happy to get the chance to
do it. Maybe if he realizes he won't get the chance to come here and
get more empanadas, that may make him drop the suit."
Yates told Frankovich about the argument, and the attorney is now
pulling out fighting words. "If Miss Chile Lindo doesn't get an
attitude fix, she's going to have a bigger problems. It's like saying
you're black, you're not going to eat at my restaurant because you're
not welcome here. Take her legs off and tell her to go crawl in there."
All right, then. It look like this is just heating up.
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