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Reached by telephone, Duwaji warned a reporter that he was "in the process of suing" the Chronicle and Annise Parker. "You need to be careful about what you put in the paper," he said. "Be careful what sources you use before you do anything." He declined to comment on the record about the disputes or the allegations.
Palomo says that three months ago the situation was temporarily reversed. She heard the sound of jackhammers tearing up the nearby street. She says she called the police, who ordered workers to stop after they determined that Duwaji didn't have a permit. He was later able to get a permit for a large driveway, effectively taking four parking spaces from Annabelle's.
Cafe workers say they realize that city personnel are just trying to do their job, however cumbersome the inspections. Likewise, representatives from the city departments note that anyone can make an anonymous complaint, and that they have little discretion, even if they may suspect the complaint is groundless.
"We have to respond to complaints," explains HFD Chief Inspector Charles Key. "If we don't, then pretty soon you'll be doing a story about how fire marshals aren't doing their job."
Kathy Barton from the health department says that their five inspections of Annabelle's in two years do not represent a particularly high frequency. They are required to respond within 24 hours to any "food-borne" complaint, she says. Many complaints "appear to be driven by someone wanting to get rid of a business," she says. "It's not unusual."
Palomo says she'll endure the situation, however distracting. "I can't even concentrate on being creative because of parking, the deck and harassment," she says. "I don't have the time or money to keep him off my back, but he's not taking the restaurant."