Round Table Pizza patio

Round Table Pizza’s Caty Escobar enters what used to be the restaurant’s back patio. The tables and chairs have been removed because they weren’t ADA-compliant.

Los Altos natives Pam and Dave Levens have owned the Round Table Pizza in downtown Los Altos for 40 years, and they’ve never had a year quite like this one. With their business already struggling amid the pandemic, the Levens are now dealing with a lawsuit for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Serial plaintiff Scott Johnson has sued the Levens, among other business owners in downtown Los Altos, for ADA noncompliance. Johnson, a quadriplegic, has a history of suing businesses throughout the state for violating the ADA. He has filed more than 6,250 lawsuits since 2003, according to a June 22 article in The Sacramento Bee.

Johnson claims he visited the Levens’ Round Table Pizza twice, but Pam Levens questions that. She has reason to believe he never visited their establishment – she said she never saw Johnson on her security camera footage. Levens added that Johnson made the claim so he could benefit from California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which allows disabled plaintiffs to automatically recover a minimum of $4,000 in statutory damages if they prove they visited a business with barriers.

“He says he comes in twice because he gets money from each time he comes in and for each thing he’s found that isn’t handicapped-ready,” Levens said.

Making modifications

After receiving legal papers, the couple hired a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) to provide a CASp report listing the present barriers. Levens said she and Dave began making adjustments immediately, including installing a new doorknob, raising table heights and lowering the order counter.

Because the self-service soda machine was located too high to meet ADA regulations, they moved it so that employees now fill soda cups for customers. Because of the lack of ADA-accessible parking spots in their parking lot of three spaces, all stalls are now employee-only.

“I don’t mind redoing what we need to do for the handicapped,” Levens said. “I mind paying Scott Johnson. He doesn’t deserve it.”

Levens added that settling with Johnson will cost between $10,000 and $15,000, a severe financial blow with business already down 20% during the pandemic. Much of the lost business came from the lack of construction-worker lunch crowd and team parties during soccer season, she said.

Because pizza is meant to be shared, Levens said birthday parties were a common source of business prior to the pandemic. Levens said her husband worked for Green Pastures, a home for children with cerebral palsy, for more than 10 years, and children from Green Pastures often would have birthday parties at Round Table. The parties would involve four or five wheelchairs, she added, and there was never a problem with accessibility.

Established 58 years ago, the downtown Los Altos Round Table is the second one established in the history of the franchise – the original was founded in Menlo Park in 1959 by Palo Alto resident Bill Larson.

Levens said she and her husband never thought they would own a pizza franchise, but when Dave was looking to enter the restaurant business, she convinced him to stay local to Los Altos. They bought the Round Table at 399 First St. in 1981 and have been running it ever since.

“We are still here, and we’re happy to make and deliver pizzas to you,” Levens said.

For more information on Round Table, call 941-0237 or visit roundtablepizza.com.