By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California restaurants are hungry to reopen at full capacity, but it’s a waiting game to move to the next tier.

Now, some are turning to the courts to recoup some of their losses.

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“It’s the toughest year we’ve ever had in the industry,” said Sam Manolakas.

Manolakas runs Brookfields restaurants. There are three in the Sacramento area.

“We’re trying to reinvent ourselves on a daily basis,” he said.

He is joining a group of restaurants fed up with statewide limitations during the pandemic. They say they paid thousands for health permits, liquor licenses and tourism assessment fees and now they want their money back.

“We’re trying to bring attention to the fact we’re paying fees to the government, but yet the government is shutting us down or curtailing our business to the degree,” Manolakas said. “It’s hard to make a living.”

Attorney Brian Kabateck represents Brookfields, the first restaurant to file a claim in Sacramento County.

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“The legal basis for this is the state and the county can’t be unjustly enriched by collecting a fee for, frankly, a service that they didn’t provide – that service being allowing the restaurants to open and operate,” said Kabatack.

Cathryn Bafus hopes the state gives back something she says restaurants did for employees like her — making it possible to work through the pandemic.

“I told them I don’t want to go on unemployment. I want to be here, do whatever I can. We are gonna survive this,” she said.

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Manolakas is also bracing for an increase in the state minimum wage set to go into effect next year.

“The governor had a great opportunity to curtail the minimum wage increase that’s coming up in January of $1 an hour. But yet he is going forward with increasing the minimum wage,” he said.

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Manolakas sees many people leaving the Golden State, but it’s hard to pick up and move a restaurant – and he’s just not willing to eat the losses anymore.