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LA Bars Are Still Closed And Parties Are Still Banned. People Aren't Complying

On a busy weekend night, patrons crowd the bar at the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood, seen in 2012. (Guzzle & Nosh/Flickr Creative Commons)
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Cooped up from months of quarantining, Angelenos are itching to party (maybe they always were) and some of them don't think too much of masks. Two parties in recent days are attracting scrutiny — and questions about enforcement.

Exhibit A: The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has launched an investigation into a party held last Friday night at Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood at which few, if any, people seemed to be wearing masks.

The event, which a PR rep for the bar's parent company told our friends at KCRW was a gathering to "honor a group of first responders," reportedly involved dozens of patrons who were not wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing protocols.

According to CNN, "Dozens of people were plainly visible through the bar's windows from the sidewalk Friday night, drinking cocktails under flashing lights to club music so loud that it vibrated security bars."

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Here's what Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, had to say when asked about the reports of the party on Monday's news conference:

"There is really zero tolerance for having indoor parties at your business places, whether it's a private or public party. You've potentially created a lot of exposures and the possibility that that moves into the community would be a very unfortunate place for us to be right now, as everyone else is working so hard to reduce the rate of transmission."

Located on Vine near Fountain, Sassafras Saloon is a Southern-themed bar owned by the 1933 Group, which also owns the Formosa Cafe, Highland Park Bowl and several other nightlife venues in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Police Department is also investigating the party, the department said in a statement to KNX reporter Claudia Peschiutta.

CNN reported that at least one LAPD officer attended the party at Sassafras, but the media outlet is not naming him because "identifying his image may impact his safety as a police officer." LAist has not independently confirmed this to be true.

The party first attracted attention when local media outlet Knock.LA tweeted a video in which someone working the door at the event repeatedly referred to it as an "LASD party" and published a story saying the same thing.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department issued a statement saying, "the persons identified in the video are not employees of the Sheriff's Department and this event was not hosted by the LASD."

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This isn't the only recent party in Los Angeles to cause problems and raise concerns about large gatherings.

Yesterday, the LAPD began receiving calls about a large gathering at a home on Mulholland Drive, which reportedly involved a party bus and a food truck.

Complaints about the party began around 6:30 p.m. Monday night, according to NBC4, which was among several TV stations who captured video of the scene. Police officers showed up and enforced traffic and parking violations, but did not enforce the county health department's order banning large gatherings, the department said.

"Officers just observed a large group of people at the location and cars and pedestrians blocking the roadway," LAPD Officer William Cooper explained, saying they were there to address a noise complaint.

Cooper says officers ordered party-goers to clear the road. While some cars were ticketed, no citation was issued for noise. But since the party was on private property, officers had no jusidiction to enforce health orders, such as mask wearing.

"It was a private party," Lt. Chris Ramirez told NBC4. "It's like me going to your house and telling you what to do on your own property."

More than six hours after police were first called to the home they were back. One woman had been fatally shot and three others were also wounded, authorities said. That shooting took place shortly before 1 a.m.

Ramirez also told NBC4 that the gunfire appeared to be gang-related. No arrests have yet been made.

At today's briefing, California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said:

"I hope that we continue to have our local partners not just saying and reminding people of the message but enforcing public health orders — not just the state public health orders, but the orders at the local level that I know in L.A. County are strong as well. "

Ghaly added that incidents like the one on Mulholland Drive "need to be addressed head on, and we depend on our local partners to enforce U.S. public health orders throughout the state, throughout our communities."

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