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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

L.A. City Council Takes First Vote for Vaccine Mandate

Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday held its first vote on an ordinance that would require proof of vaccination for patrons to enter many businesses, including restaurants, gyms, salons and movie theaters. The ordinance will be put to a final vote next week.

If it goes into effect, the ordinance will apply to restaurants and eateries including coffee shops, gyms and fitness centers, as well as entertainment and personal care facilities such as movie theaters, museums, salons and tattoo shops. It would require business operators to review guests’ proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours, prior to entering their establishments. Guests would be exempt from the mandate for medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs — which would be reviewed by the location they try to enter.

Businesses could face fines up to $5,000 for repeated offenses. 

The motion to request the ordinance passed the City Council with 13 votes on Aug. 11, but failed to meet the unanimous consent requirement needed to pass Wednesday. Councilman Joe Buscaino withheld his vote, pending changes in the language that clarify enforcement regulations and more closely align the ordinance with L.A. County standards.

It will proceed to a second vote next Tuesday, where it will require eight votes to pass or 12 votes to pass with an urgency clause, which is currently attached to the proposal. The ordinance would go into effect Nov. 4 if it receives 12 votes. It is unclear when the ordinance would take effect if the urgency clause is removed.

“I just struggle with supporting this ordinance and will only support an ordinance that will be aligned with the county’s direction, per the county health orders, which we’ve been doing now for almost two years,” Buscaino said. “I agree with the premise that we need more people to be vaccinated and we need to find ways to keep our workers safe, but making a teenager with no formal training serve as a bouncer to keep people in or out of a restaurant and then fining the business for their failure is not the way to go about it.”

The proposal largely drew criticism from the public comment portion of the meeting, with concerns about the consistency and effectiveness of the ordinance raised by multiple speakers.

“We appreciate that the council is taking bold moves but are concerned with the inconsistencies that we’re seeing that are going to be problematic for businesses,” Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry Commerce Association, said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “Having a local approach as opposed to a uniform, county-wide approach means that the businesses that are near the edges may lose business to other areas. It’s easy to go from San Pedro over to Palos Verdes.”

Waldman also expressed concern over additional costs for enforcement, requesting a gross receipt credit for expenses that small businesses are required to spend on additional security measures. He added that the rules regarding businesses with multiple entrances and exits are inconsistent and would allow, for example, an unvaccinated guest to freely enter one store in a shopping mall but not others, based on how many entrances the shop had.

“All in all, we’d like consistency,” Waldman said. “And working with the county to try and come up with a consistent, uniform proposal.”

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert is a Los Angeles-based reporter covering retail, hospitality and philanthropy for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. In addition to her current beat, she is particularly interested in criminal justice topics, health and science stories and investigative journalism. She received her AA in Humanities from Moorpark College in 2016, her BA in Communication from Cal Lutheran University in 2019 and followed it up with a MA in Specialized Journalism from USC in the summer of 2020. Through her work, Katherine aspires to help strengthen the fragile trust between members of the media and the public.

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