Insurers are trying to deny claims being made by restaurants on their business-interruption policies — claims they are making because the coronavirus pandemic has clearly interrupted their business. And now another big, longstanding Bay Area restaurant is filing a lawsuit to get its insurer to pay up.
The owners of The Cliff House, Dan and Mary Hountalas, are suing insurance company Allianz and its affiliates, claiming that they are being denied a payout for the interruption of their business. The lawsuit comes just weeks after a similar one filed by Chez Panisse against its insurer for the same reason.
As KPIX reports, the Hountalases have run the 157-year-old restaurant for 47 years, since it and the nearby Louis' both became concessionaires for the National Park Service. The family announced a temporary closure of the Cliff House recently, saying that they planned to reopen at some later date, perhaps when San Francisco again permits indoor dining.
"The Cliff House has survived earthquakes, fires, and flooding and we will survive this as well," says Mary Hountalas in a statement. "That is why we took out insurance for business interruptions and the insurance companies should honor their obligations under the policy."
And the Hountalases' attorney, Brian Danitz, tells KPIX that the insurers are "raising a host of baseless excuses to deny the claims."
"Restaurants and other businesses suffering in this pandemic are fed up with being taken advantage of by insurance companies that charge exorbitant premiums and have no intention to cover claims," Danitz tells the station.
Chez Panisse owner and founder Alice Waters noted when she announced her lawsuit that she was going the lawsuit route for the greater good, and saying she doesn't "believe in" suing people in general.
Thomas Keller's restaurant group has reportedly filed a similar suit as well after being denied their claims.
Scott Friedson, CEO of Insurance Claim Recovery Support, told KPIX at the time that he believed these cases could go all the way to the Supreme Court. "The American people are being grossly deceived by their insurance companies," Friedson said. "They need to be holding the interest of policy holders equal to their own. And wherever there’s some ambiguity, they need to do the right thing and indemnify their policy holders."