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Sides in La Jolla pizzeria dispute trade new blows in lawsuit amendments

American Pizza Manufacturing at 7402 La Jolla Blvd. offers pizzas assembled in the store for customers to bake at home.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Ajay Thakore accuses American Pizza Manufacturing owner Andrew Melone of rewarding a parking ticket, while Melone seeks punitive damages against Thakore.

The duel of lawsuits between La Jolla restaurant American Pizza Manufacturing and local resident and businessman Ajay Thakore escalated further this month, with Thakore amending his suit to add accusations involving a parking ticket issued by the San Diego Police Department and APM owner Andrew Melone amending his to seek punitive damages against Thakore.

Thakore suit

A U.S. District Court lawsuit filed in November by Thakore and Gopher Media LLC (formerly known as Local Clicks doing business as Doctor Multimedia) accuses Melone of racial harassment, false advertising and prohibiting use of a 15-minute public parking space in front of the restaurant. Thakore, who also goes by the name Ace Rogers, is seeking $10 million.

Doctor Multimedia offers marketing services for medical practices and has offices in Las Vegas and near Westfield UTC mall.

According to Melone’s lawsuit, the dispute between him and Thakore goes back to about October 2020, after the city of San Diego converted the parking spaces outside APM to a 15-minute zone and Thakore “would illegally park ... in public 15-minute parking spaces for hours at a time and ... for extended periods in the red zone outside of APM.”

But Thakore, who has said he is “of Indian descent from the country of India,” alleges that Melone used racial slurs against him and “refused service to me, and one of his customers kicked my three-legged handicapped dog.”

His lawsuit says Melone and his business discriminate against anyone who appears to be of Arab or Asian descent.

Melone countersuit

Melone has denied those allegations and in January filed a countersuit in U.S. District Court accusing Thakore of waging a “relentless and ongoing campaign of harassment” against the restaurant while “libeling [APM and] ... unfairly interfering with APM’s business” by parking a vehicle in front of the business bearing the message “Take n bake pizza sucks,” making “objectively false and inflammatory statements on social media,” posting more than a hundred negative and fake online reviews and paying others through online solicitations to harass APM.

Melone’s lawsuit also claims Thakore “commissioned three airplanes to fly above La Jolla with banners targeting APM.”

Thakore’s suit says he was engaged in a “peaceful and orderly protest” against APM and that Melone “threatens and harasses … anyone that exercises their First Amendment right to protest against American Pizza Manufacturing or express an opinion about American Pizza Manufacturing, its business practices, the quality or lack of quality of food.”

Amendments

Thakore amended his lawsuit last week to also accuse Melone of offering a San Diego police officer a “reward” after the officer ticketed Thakore while he was parked in the 15-minute space fronting the restaurant.

The claim alleges “Melone rewarded the police officer with free food, free beverages and/or something else for ticketing Thakore,” and it says the ticket has since been dismissed.

Neither the Police Department nor the San Diego Commission on Police Practices commented about the complaint.

According to the city, when a complaint is filed, an investigating supervisor is assigned. The investigation will either be informal, during which the concerns are handled internally with the officer and a file is kept, or formal.

A formal investigation is classified either as Category I or Category II, depending on the nature of the allegations. Category I is reviewed by the Commission on Police Practices.

According to Thakore’s amendment, Melone used the officer to “further his campaign of harassment, threats and intimidation against Thakore in retaliation for filing this lawsuit and for exercising his First Amendment rights to protest Melone and his business, to prevent and discourage Thakore from parking in the parking spot [and] to control who parks in the parking spot.”

Melone filed a court document denying the accusations and amended his countersuit this week to ask for punitive damages against Thakore.

That would be in addition to “damages in the amount to be determined at trial,” attorneys fees and injunctive relief prohibiting Thakore from “harassing and unlawfully disparaging” Melone and APM.

Thakore did not respond to the La Jolla Light’s request for comment.

Other developments

Thakore has garnered public attention in other ways recently in connection with the planned Flower Pot coffee shop and last month’s La Jolla Concours d’Elegance car show.

Thakore is providing funding for an upcoming coffee roasting operation connected to the Flower Pot Cafe and Bakery that will be run by former Pannikin Coffee & Tea owners Amanda Morrow and Gloria Serna. Flower Pot is tentatively scheduled to open in early July at 7530 Fay Ave., the former site of Rubio’s Coastal Grill.

Additionally, during the April 22 “Ferrari Friday” event connected to the Concours d’Elegance, Thakore posted on social media that he gave away $80,000 to people in attendance. A video posted on his Instagram page shows him standing in front of his car throwing what appears to be cash into the crowd that was perusing 75 Ferraris parked along Prospect Street at Herschel Avenue.

“Who’s the man?” he asks repeatedly in the video, then yells “Rich dog on board! I’m Ace!” as he gets into his car. Thakore often uses the hashtag "#richdogonboard” on social media. ◆