Seyfarth Synopsis: On October 6, 2021, the City Council of Los Angeles approved, and Mayor Garcetti signed, an ordinance that will require patrons to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entering many indoor locations in the City. Impacted locations include food and drink establishments, gyms and fitness venues, entertainment and recreation venues, personal care establishments, and City government buildings. The ordinance also requires patrons at large outdoor events to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

The City of Los Angeles has joined other locales, including West Hollywood and San Francisco, in imposing vaccine mandates on patrons of certain businesses. On October 6, 2021, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that will require businesses to prevent patrons from entering many indoor areas unless the individuals show proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, along with their photo ID. The ordinance also requires patrons to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entering outdoor events with 5,000 to 9,999 attendees (which builds on existing regulations for mega events with over 10,000 people, and a recent Los Angeles County Public Health Order setting new vaccination rules for large events and some indoor activities).

When Is It Effective?

The ordinance did not receive enough votes to go into effect immediately as an urgency ordinance. As a result, it will go into effect 31 days after publication (i.e., November 6, 2021). This creates inconsistencies with internal deadlines in the ordinance, as drafted, that require businesses to post information about the mandate by October 21, 2021, and implement the requirements by November 4, 2021. The ordinance states that the City will post related Rules and Regulations, which may help clarify these inconsistencies.

What Does “Fully Vaccinated” Mean?

A patron is fully vaccinated if it has been at least fourteen days since they received “the entire recommended series” of any COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA (including under an emergency use authorization) or the World Health Organization. The ordinance references the current two-dose vaccine series. It is unclear whether the mandate will require proof of booster shots in the future (which may become part of the “recommended series” of vaccines before long).

The Indoor Mandate: Restaurants, Gyms, Theaters, Spas, and More

The ordinance requires four categories of establishments to enforce a vaccine mandate indoors: food and beverage, gyms and fitness, entertainment and recreation, and personal care. The ordinance lists examples for each category:

The ordinance encourages establishments to offer service outside for patrons who do not provide proof of vaccination or a sufficient exemption (e.g., curbside pickup, drive thru, delivery, and outdoor seating and dining).The indoor mandate also applies to City of Los Angeles government buildings.

Proof of vaccination would be required upon the patron’s first interaction with in-person staff. However, patrons need not produce proof of vaccination for brief visits to use the restroom, order, pick-up, paying for food or drink to-go, or to perform necessary repairs. But they must wear a well-fitting mask at all times while indoors.

Special Rules for Medical and Religious Exemptions

As with other vaccine mandates, different rules apply to patrons who claim they cannot get vaccinated against COVID-19 due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief.

The ordinance states that in order to obtain an exemption, a patron must “provide” a “self-attestation” that the patron has a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from complying.

For patrons who obtain an exemption on medical or religious grounds, the ordinance limits them to only outdoor areas. These exempt patrons may enter indoor areas only if: (1) outdoor areas are unavailable, and (2) they provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to entry of a covered location and photo ID. (In contrast, those who do not provide proof of vaccination or qualify for an exemption do not have the option of using the indoor portion with proof of a negative test; they are limited to briefly coming inside to do things like use the restroom or pick up food.)

City of Los Angeles government buildings are not subject to these specific exemptions. Instead, each department will accommodate medical and religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis (e.g., via remote service, outdoor service, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test).

Indoor Establishments Must Post Notice, Keep Records

Covered locations must post a notice advising patrons that proof of vaccination will be required to enter indoor areas. The notice must be posted “prominently” where patrons can see it before entering.

Covered locations also must develop and keep a written record describing their protocol for implementing and enforcing the ordinance’s requirements.

Large Outdoor Events: Proof of Vaccination or Negative Test

The ordinance includes slightly more relaxed rules for operators of outdoor events with between 5,000 and 9,999 attendees, if the event is ticketed or held in a defined space with controlled points of entry.

This category may include large private gatherings, theme parks, and marathons, among other events. Operators at these events must verify either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours for each patron, before entry.

These same requirements already apply (as of October 7) to outdoor events that draw 10,000 people or more and indoor events with 1,000 or more people under an LA County Public Health Order. Operators of these events also must prominently place information on all communications, including reservation and ticketing systems, to ensure guests are aware that (1) they must wear a face mask while there and (2) all attendees, ages 12 and older, must either be fully vaccinated or test negative before attending. Operators for outdoor mega events also must make face masks available for all attendees.

Indoor and Outdoor: Acceptable Proof, ID Requirement

Acceptable proof of vaccination includes: (1) a vaccination card issued by the CDC (or a similar document issued by a foreign governmental agency) that includes the person’s name, type of vaccine, and date last dose was administered; or (2) a photo of such a card (both sides); or (3) documentation of vaccination from a licensed healthcare provider; or (4) a personal digital COVID-19 vaccine record issued by the State of California or similar documentation (available at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov).

Proof of a negative COVID-19 test result requires all of the following: (1) a printed document, email, or text message displayed on a phone, (2) from a test provider or lab (3) that shows results of a PCR or antigen COVID-19 test that either has emergency use authorization by the FDA or is operating per the Laboratory Developed Test requirements by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, (d) that was conducted within 72 hours before the patron enters, and (e) that includes the person’s name, type of test performed, date of the test, and negative test result.

For any patron who appears 18 years of age or older, staff at indoor and outdoor venues must cross check the proof of vaccination or proof of negative COVID-19 test result against the patron’s photo ID (driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued ID card, but also a work or school ID card).

Venues and Persons Entirely Exempt

Neither the vaccine mandate nor testing applies to the following venues or persons:

  • Purely outdoor venues with fewer than 5,000 attendees.
  • A structure on the sidewalk or roadway if it is entirely open on the side facing the sidewalk.
  • An outdoor dining structure for individual parties, such as a plastic dome, if it has adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation.
  • Non-residents who are performing artists or professional athletes, and non-residents accompanying them as part of their regular employment. These individuals are only exempt from an establishment’s rules if they are entering for purposes of performing or competing.

Fines for Violating the Ordinance

An operator of an indoor establishment or outdoor event may be issued a citation for violating the ordinance and fined as follows:

  • First violation: warning and notice to correct.
  • Second violation: administrative fine of $1,000.
  • Third violation: administrative fine of $2,000.
  • Fourth and subsequent violations: administrative fine of $5,000.

Workplace Solutions

Covered businesses must rapidly adopt and adjust their COVID-19 vaccination verification procedures. Orders imposing vaccine mandates for employees are cropping up across the country and within California. California is particularly challenging because of the patchwork of local orders.