Hair salons, gyms, a massage parlor and several smoke shops are among the 60 businesses facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly remaining open in violation of stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles, according to the city attorney’s office.
L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer on Tuesday announced charges against dozens of businesses within the city and areas including Venice, Sherman Oaks, Tarzana, North Hollywood and Studio City.
He cited a grim warning given Tuesday by the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said states and countries could “turn back the clock” by lifting restrictions too soon.
“As Dr. Fauci warned this morning, all our hard work to slow the spread of COVID-19 could be squandered if businesses violate the rules and open prematurely,” Feuer said in a news release.
The 60 businesses facing criminal charges were first warned by police and given explanations of the county health order requiring their closure, according to Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office. Wilcox indicated the Los Angeles Police Department then referred these businesses to the city attorney for charges, which carry a maximum penalty that includes a $1000 fine and six months in jail.
“As this is a matter of public health and safety, for those non-essential businesses blatantly violating the Order, strong enforcement was necessary,” Wilcox wrote in an email.
About half of the businesses charged are smoke shops selling tobacco products and others on the list include several beauty supply stores. There are also a handful of dog groomers, a clothing store, some hair and nail salons, a car wash and an auto dealership.
It’s not clear when each of the businesses allegedly opened in violation of pandemic-related restrictions.
Stay-at-home orders have been in effect since mid-March. Since then, the county has seen hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 daily. More than 1,600 people have died of the virus and cases topped 33,100 by Tuesday, according to the county’s public health department.
Health officials on Tuesday said restrictions will stay in place at least until July, extending them past the expected end date of May 15. But L.A. County has already gradually started to lift restrictions.
“While the City’s Safer at Home order will remain in place beyond May 15, we will also continue to adjust the order gradually — to safely allow more activities, more businesses to operate, and more Angelenos to get back to work,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a news release.
On Friday, the county began allowing retail businesses such as car dealerships and clothing stores to reopen with curbside service only. These places are required to follow certain social distancing policies like requiring customers and employees to wear masks and keeping people six feet apart.
Over Mother’s Day weekend, health inspectors surveyed 410 reopened businesses and found 162 in violations of such guidelines. Garcetti said 27 businesses received notices of violations.
County officials have said another health order will be issued Wednesday outlining the latest changes to virus-related restrictions.
During the first days of the lockdown in late March, Garcetti said he planned to have the Department of Water and Power shut off utilities for non-essential businesses open in violation of stay-at-home orders.
“This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” he said of those remaining open.