Thousands of Los Angeles businesses are required to ask patrons to show proof of vaccination before entering various types of venues.
In response, Canoga Park Grandi Italiani owner Aron Celnik said he was not making even half of what he used to earn before the start of the pandemic and hiring an employee who would check customer IDs could take a toll on this budget. “They keep putting the screws on us until finally we’re forced to close because we can’t afford to stay open anymore,” Celnik said, adding that the rule comes during the holiday season.
Restaurant owner Francoise Koster was uncertain about when to start asking her patrons to show proof of vaccination under the new City of Los Angeles mandate, which went into effect last month. To avoid a fine, she posted a sign in her Hollywood La Poubelle French Bistro. But even after scrolling through government websites and talking to other business owners, she still was confused about the new rule.
Koster wondered what to do with customers who didn’t get vaccinated because of their religious beliefs, or how to find workers to check patrons’ immunization cards while operating with a skeleton crew. She also worried whether her restaurant would survive another season of uncertainty as the pandemic continues to take a toll on her business. “They are making us force people to get vaccinated,” she said. “This is going to cost us a lot of money. And if we don’t do it right we’re criminals because they are going to fine us.”
“This is the time when we’re supposed to be at our busiest,” he said. “And I’m going to have to spend time checking on people’s vaccinations status. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Koster said it was unfair to make businesses force customers to get vaccinated.
“The city should hire more of their policing people and not put it on us because we already have a giant burden,” Koster said. “This is ridiculous.” She said that it would be hard to check vaccination cards of customers who enter the restaurant, sit at the bar, go to the restroom and then walk to the patio. “I’m not a vax police and I don’t know how it’s going to look,” she said. “I don’t know if this is the way to do things.”
Koster is among thousands of businesses required to ask patrons to show proof of vaccination before entering various types of venues as the city is facing a slight uptick in cases driven by the delta variant. But some business owners worry the rule might deal another blow to their finances ahead of the holiday season.
Under the new rule, known as SafePassLA, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, breweries, wineries, food courts, hotel ballrooms, yoga, Pilates, cycling, barre, and dance studios, hotel gyms, shopping malls, moving theaters, nail and hair salons, piercing shops and outdoor events with 5,000-9,999 attendees will need to ask proof of immunization.
Establishments need to display a notice informing patrons that proof of vaccination is required to enter any indoor venue. The mandate comes after the Los Angeles City Council voted in October approving the ordinance that required customers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated to enter indoor establishments.
Nearly 80% of Los Angeles County residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine while about 70% are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials’ numbers. Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials hope the rule will help boost the number of vaccinated people.
Customers with religious and medical exemptions for vaccinations are required to show negative tests within 72 hours of entry while patrons without proof of immunization are allowed to use outdoor patios and briefly enter a venue to pick up meals or use a restroom.
Businesses that don’t comply with the rule would be fined from $1,000 to $5,000. Sarah Wiltfong, senior policy manager at the Los Angeles County Business Federation, said part of the problem was that the city issued its implementation guidelines just two days before the new rule took effect. “A lot of businesses are just now taking a look at what they’re required to implement,” she said. Wiltfong said she understood that the city staff was under pressure to detail the rules, but “it was not particularly helpful for businesses to have only two days to figure out how to implement the city’s mandate.”
The mandate, she added, puts some small businesses — especially mom-and-pop shops and restaurants in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates — arguably at a competitive disadvantage. “Now they’re expected to just turn away business,” Wiltfong said. The mandate is just “another blow to businesses financially,” she added because the city hasn’t provided any financial support to businesses to implement the rule. It was also unclear when the mandate will be eased.