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City Of LA Goes One Step Further Than County By Adding Vaccine Requirement For Restaurants And Other Indoor Venues

A doorman checks a customer's vaccination card before allowing him to enter a nightclub in San Francisco. Both are wearing masks.
A doorman at a club in San Francisco checks a customer's vaccination card before allowing him to enter.
(Justin Sullivan
Getty Images)
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Angelenos will need to keep their vaccine cards handy.

The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday requiring customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor public places such as shops, restaurants, movie theaters and museums.

The sweeping new law was passed with 11 city council votes and was signed hours later by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. The new regulations go into effect in 30 days.

There are exemptions to the city’s ordinance. People who claim having a medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated can instead provide a negative coronavirus test 72 hours prior to entering the indoor space.

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Those who aren’t vaccinated can still use outdoor areas, and are allowed to briefly go inside to use the restroom, order food or pick up an item if they’re masked.

“No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated,” said L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez at last week’s council meeting. “But if you don’t, there are certain things you will not be able to do without showing proof of vaccination.”

Venues can be issued a citation for not implementing the requirement. Fines start after the second violation at $1,000 and escalate to $5,000 for fourth and any subsequent violations, according to the city’s ordinance. According to a press release issued Wednesday afternoon by Council President Nury Martinez's office, enforcement will begin on Nov. 29 and will be carried out by the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.

City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor in the 2022 election, called the ordinance "unenforceable" at last week’s meeting when the measure was first debated, and withheld his vote. Buscaino said he was hesitant to support the ordinance since it differs from county restrictions. Because the motion did not have unanimous support, a second vote was scheduled.

At Wednesday’s final vote, Buscaino voted “no,” along with John Lee. Two other council members, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Monica Rodriguez, were absent. The ordinance required one more vote to go into effect without a 30-day delay.

The new law also requires people at outdoor events with 5,000 or more attendees to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test. That’s stricter than the county’s rule, which requires vaccine verification at outdoor mega events with more than 10,000 people.

Proof Of Vaccination Required For Bars Throughout LA County

Angelenos will get a preview of what it’s like to prove their vaccination status on Thursday. That’s when a county-wide health order will kick in at indoor bars, breweries, nightclubs, lounges and distilleries.

Unlike the city of L.A.’s order, the county's does not apply to restaurants.

Customers and employees will have to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine, and both by Nov. 4. A recent negative test won't get you past the bouncer, but unvaccinated people can be served in an outdoor area of the location.

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The L.A. County health order also means big changes for outdoor mega events, which will for the first time include theme parks such as Universal Studios. Adults and children 12 and over, working or attending an outdoor mega event, will need to prove they are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID test 72 hours prior.

The rules are easier for younger kids. Children 11 and under who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated are exempt and don’t need to show a negative test, and children under 18 don’t need a photo ID.

On Sept. 28, L.A. County health officials announced leniency for event operators who need additional time to comply, giving them until Nov. 1 to put in place photo ID verification of people 18 and up — but vaccine proof must still be shown by people 12 and older starting on Oct. 7.

Health officials say the vaccine verification is needed to encourage more people to get immunized and stop the cycle of coronavirus surges.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said “the reality is we’re not back to normal,” at a news conference last week.

Ferrer called the vaccine proof requirements “important prevention strategies” as the county struggles with getting more people vaccinated. So far, just 69% of county residents over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, according to county data.

“Waiting until spread is high again before acting doesn’t reflect on the reality of this pandemic and the destructive potential of this virus,” Ferrer said.

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