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Sid Soffer: 1932-2007

He could fight city hall

Sid Soffer owned 2 popular eateries and was well-known for his battles with local government.

January 31, 2007|By Amanda Pennington and Alicia Robinson

Former Newport Beach restaurateur Sid Soffer — a maverick who lived by his own codes, often not exactly the government's — died Tuesday morning in Las Vegas after fighting leukemia and diabetes. He was 74.

Soffer had been a self-proclaimed "fugitive" since 1995, when he left California for Las Vegas to avoid being arrested for building-code violations. But he always intended to come back and finish the fight.

"I'm definitely coming back," Soffer told the Daily Pilot in 2000. "It's just a question of when."

Known for his beef stroganoff and battles with city hall, Soffer at times owned two popular restaurants — Sid's Steakhouse and the Blue Beet — in Newport Beach, and he appealed a dispute with the city of Costa Mesa over some classic cars in his yard all the way to the state Supreme Court.

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Always outspoken, Soffer loved talking to people and hearing their stories, remembered his daughter, Shima Soffer.

"He was such a people person, and he always tried to make conversation with the waitress or the checkout person or just whoever was there," Shima Soffer said, adding that it was important to her dad to know a few words in multiple languages so he could try to communicate with anyone.

But when it came to government, Soffer was a fighter, many who knew him said.

"Sid battled everybody and everything, and right up to the end he was battling the IRS and the city and everything, but cancer he couldn't beat," said Steve Lewis, who now owns the Blue Beet. "He could beat everybody else, almost."

He was beating people at chess in the back room of the Blue Beet when John Coombe met him. Coombe, who knew Soffer since the mid-1970s and was his attorney for years, remembered him as a genius when it came to restaurants.

Sid's Steakhouse had no lights or sign out front, but "you'd open up the big oaken door and the place was packed," Coombe said.

Soffer bought the Blue Beet in the mid-1960s and continued to own the property even after he sold the business about two decades later. He was "a hell of a cook," said Scott Lewis, son of Steve Lewis and general manager of the Blue Beet, but Soffer was as uncompromising about food as he was about city issues.

"If you'd try to get salt or pepper with your steak, he'd kick you out of the restaurant," Lewis said.

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