This afternoon, the Los Angeles City Council delayed voting for an ordinance that would require full vaccination proof to enter indoor areas of restaurants, gyms, salons, movie theaters, large venues, and city buildings. If eventually approved, the emergency ordinance would go into effect on November 4, a move that appears likely once the council votes again on the issue next Tuesday.
As councilmembers discussed and asked questions about the strict order — which requires customers to present proof of full vaccination to restaurant staff for entry or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours — it appeared, for a time, that the order would come to a vote today, with a unanimous verdict moving the ordinance along. That was until councilmember Joe Buscaino stepped in to punt the vote to next week by abstaining, thus moving the final council vote by one week, when it will not require a unanimous verdict.
“I’d like to withhold my vote,” said Buscaino at today’s meeting. “Unenforceable laws are ridiculous, and during that time I’d like the city attorney to work on cleaning up this language and provide counsel with clear, proper enforcement regulations. Let’s act quickly and have [members] come back in a week so that we can provide (and we also have a duty to provide) clear information to the public. If we don’t, then we erode the public’s trust in what we’re doing here.”
Buscaino and councilman Paul Krikorian’s biggest concerns surrounded the enforceability of the ordinance, particularly because the onus is on restaurant workers to enforce at the customer level. If passed, restaurants, bars, cafes, pop-ups, and clubs would not be penalized if duped by fake vaccination cards; however, the ordinance does put enforcement squarely on the shoulders of businesses. If caught not checking for vaccination status, operators and owners would be cited or fined. The first violation receives a verbal warning, a second violation secures a $1,000 fine, and $2,000 for a third infraction.
The city’s chief legislative analyst Sharon Tso noted that next week’s vote requires only eight votes (out of 15) to pass, due to the order’s urgency clause. Krikorian also said the order should be tweaked in the intervening week to hopefully include protections for employees who experience violent encounters with anti-maskers and anti-vax protestors in stores and public spaces like shopping malls.
Over the last few weeks, West Hollywood and Pasadena have announced similar orders requiring vaccine proof for indoor entry. Throughout today’s council meeting, elected officials suggested that aligning with other cities in LA County is the only way to make a difference with COVID-19 infection and deaths. Meanwhile earlier this month, the LA County Department of Public Health mandated that people show proof of vaccination to enter bars, lounges, breweries, wineries, and nightclubs beginning on October 7. That order — which covers all of the county, including the city of Los Angeles, excluding Pasadena and Long Beach — calls for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours to attend large outdoor events as well as other hospitality spaces, though it omits restaurants and gyms. The city council vote, if it passes next week and goes into effect, would thus be more stringent than the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health order.