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LA Promises to Crack Down on Anti-Maskers With New Fines

The City Council says folks who don’t follow the rules could start being fined $250 for first infractions, and $500 for second notices

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Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

As LA’s coronavirus infections and deaths continue to soar, face covering enforcement (or, rather, unenforcement) has become a hot-button issue, particularly on social media. The situation has gotten so tense, and the COVID-19 outlook so dire, that this week the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to crack down on those who refuse to wear masks, in part by more vigorously enforcing existing city and statewide orders that require anyone venturing outside to don a face covering.

Back in November, the council empowered restaurants to refuse entry to anyone without a mask, but this new ordinance goes beyond restaurants, and has real teeth. If a facility asks an individual to wear a mask and they refuse, the first offense could net the non-masker a fine of $250. A second infraction is worth a $500 penalty. The new requirement not only applies to businesses who ask people to wear masks, it also specifically targets unmasked people in tense anti-mask standoffs, saying that someone can be cited for not wearing a mask while “invading someone’s personal space.”

Council member Mike Bonin introduced the amendment after witnessing recent anti-masker activity throughout LA. Some groups loudly forced their way through Erewhon Fairfax, Westfield Century City, and grocery stores recently, each time drawing national attention on social media. Another anti-mask incident in Los Angeles included a New Years Day Christian “outreach” event where participants approached and prayed over homeless encampments (without masks) in Skid Row and elsewhere.

“At the mall in Century City, crowds of maskless people came in, and they confronted employees, they confronted customers, they were asked to put on masks and they refused to,” said Bonin at the meeting yesterday. “We have other situations where people, maskless protesters, are going up to people, getting into people’s faces and deliberately using the fact that they are not wearing a mask as an act of aggression.”

Tinhorn Flats owner Baret Lepejian, another mask protester based in Burbank, has openly defied on-site dining restrictions and mask mandates in recent months. Lepejian’s Burbank restaurant is now in trouble with authorities, as he repeatedly ignored legal demands to stop offering on-site — and often unmasked — dining.

CBS-2 reports that council member Paul Koretz added an amendment to the proposal that:

  • Prioritizes issuing citations for mask violations to people who do not wear face coverings in public
  • Requests a report within 30 days from LAPD and Building and Safety and Street Services that shows the number of citations issued, rates of compliance, and any other issues that come up

The mask mandate has been in place since March 19, when LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s safter-at-home order required anyone in LA city limits to wear a mask. Specifics of this new ordinance approved by the City Council will now be drawn up by LA city attorney’s office.