Restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters: Strict vaccine proof mandate now in effect in L.A.

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One of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates went into effect in Los Angeles Monday, requiring customers to show proof of vaccination at many indoor businesses.

Angelenos will now be asked to show proof of full vaccination at indoor areas including restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, concert venues, convention centers, card rooms, play areas, museums, malls, play areas, spas, salons and indoor city facilities.

The new rules, called SafePassLA, came after the L.A. City Council passed an ordinance that Mayor Eric Garcetti signed.

The city’s sweeping new vaccine verification requirements expand on L.A. County’s mandate, which last week started requiring proof of full vaccination at only bars, lounges, nightclubs, breweries, wineries and distilleries.

So, vaccine verification is now needed at many more locations within the city’s limits than in surrounding L.A. County areas.

Are there exemptions?

There are exemptions to the city’s mandate.

Those who self-attest to having a medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated can instead provide a negative coronavirus test taken during the 72 hours before entering an indoor space.

Unvaccinated patrons who don’t qualify for an exemption can still opt to use outdoor areas of the venues. And they can be allowed to briefly go inside the location to use the restroom, place an order or pick up an item if they’re masked.

What happens if businesses don’t comply?

While the new rules are currently in effect, L.A. officials said they won’t cite noncompliant businesses at first, to give them time to adjust.

Then beginning Nov. 29, venues can be issued a citation for not implementing the requirement, and may be fined $1,000 for a second violation, and thousands more for subsequent violations, according to the ordinance.

Concerns over the new rules

Opponents have voiced concern over the differing rules in the city and county requirements sowing confusion for businesses and customers, and putting those in L.A. at an unfair disadvantage.

But L.A. lawmakers have said that the added safeguards are necessary to avoid a return to business closures as the coronavirus remains a threat, and many in the county remain unvaccinated.

Ahead of voting to pass the ordinance, L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez — who introduced the motion — said those who have been vaccinated “deserve to go back to normal.” 

“We’re getting tired of protecting people who do not want to protect themselves and get vaccinated,” Martinez said.

As of Monday, 72% of L.A. County residents aged 12 and older were fully vaccinated, according to county data.

Still, for business owners, the worry is about turning customers away or dealing with unruly ones.

Claire Risoli, owner of Pocha LA in Highland Park, told KTLA she does not want to have to “police” her customers.

“I don’t want to be in the position of having to turn anyone away,” she said.

Meanwhile, yoga studio owner David Gross told the Associated Press he was relieved after L.A. passed the mandate because it meant he and his co-owner don’t have to unilaterally decide whether to verify their customers are vaccinated.

Senior policy manager at the Los Angeles County Business Federation, Sarah Wiltfong, told the AP that harassment of workers tasked with verifying vaccine status is the top concern.

“This puts employees in a potential position of conflict, when they’re not necessarily trained to handle situations like that,” she said.

What can you show as proof of vaccination?

According to L.A. County’s health department, the following are acceptable forms of vaccine proof:

  • The white CDC COVID-19 vaccination record card
  • The yellow World Health Organization vaccine card
  • Documentation of vaccination from a health care provider
  • A California Immunization Registry (CAIR2) vaccination record
  • A digital vaccination record issued by California Department of Public Health
  • A digital vaccination record from an approved company like Healthvana, Carbon Health, CommonPass, CLEAR Health Pass or VaxYes.

People can also show a photocopy of their vaccine card, or a photo of it on their phone.

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