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Second warrant may delay return of steakhouse owner

August 19, 2000

Andrew Glazer

Eccentric millionaire and fugitive Sid Soffer said the Orange County

district attorney's latest warrant for his arrest is based on false

charges.

The Aug. 14 warrant, Soffer's second, is related to 27 code violations

county health officials listed for Sid's Steakhouse, his once popular

Newport Beach restaurant that he shut down.

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The health officials allege that Soffer allowed cockroaches and mice

literally to run rampant in his kitchen, failed to properly store

perishable food, lacked a workable hand-washing facility and operated for

several days without a valid health permit, according to court papers.

"You can't close me because of roaches and mice," Soffer said Friday

in a phone call from Las Vegas, where he has lived for five years to

avoid prosecution. "Everybody's got them. It's not life or death. And I

don't invite them here. I don't import them from Mexico or buy them from

a pet store."

The restaurateur failed to show up in court in 1995 to face charges

for violating building codes at several of his other properties. A judge

issued the first warrant for his arrest at that time.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Byron Nelson declined to comment Friday on Soffer's

remarks.

County health inspectors initially entered his restaurant in the

spring on suspicion that a sewer drain had leaked onto the kitchen floor.

When officials learned the water was safe, they hunted for other

violations, Soffer claimed.

But Pat Markley, a spokeswoman from the Orange County Health Care

Agency, said there was and always had been good reason to keep a vigilant

eye on Sid's Steakhouse.

"There had been a history of very, very serious violations there," she

said. "They included rodent and roach infestations, things that by state

law are a very big deal."

While Soffer contended he did his best to clear up the roach problem

with boric acid spray, health officials said bugs were crawling across

the kitchen floor well after the roach-free deadline they imposed.

In April, the department revoked the restaurant's health permit and

demanded Soffer close its doors.

But Soffer racked up a few additional violations by keeping the

restaurant open without a license until the end of May. And even then, he

said, it was personnel problems and not the county's orders that caused

him to close shop.

The latest warrant may delay Soffer's promised return to Newport-Mesa,

even though he said he would love to take the county on at the Harbor

Justice Center.

"They'd arrest me in a New York second if I showed up there," he said

Friday. "I've got to get rid of the first arrest warrant before I think

about this one."

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