To the consternation of at least some in the business community, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance that will require customers to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before entering many indoor businesses beginning next month.

The rule will apply to businesses within Los Angeles city limits including indoor restaurants, bars and eateries, gyms and fitness centers, as well as entertainment and personal care facilities such as movie theaters, museums, salons and tattoo shops. It will require business operators to review guests’ proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours prior to entering their establishments. Guests would be exempt from the mandate for medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs — which would be reviewed by the location they try to enter.

Businesses could face fines up to $5,000 for repeated offenses.

The motion passed 11-2, with Joe Buscaino and John Lee opposed. Kevin de León, who recently announced his run for mayor of Los Angeles, and Mitch O’Farrell were absent from the council meeting. Without receiving 12 votes, the ordinance’s urgency clause did not pass. As a result, the ordinance will not go into effect until Nov. 6 – one month after its publication. It was originally expected to take effect Nov. 4.

Many business leaders have been vocal about concerns relating to the ordinance, primarily about its lack of consistency with county vaccine mandates.

“The Chamber has been a strong advocate for the adoption of vaccines by employers large and small. We are not opposed to vaccine mandates for employers,” said Patricia Bruno, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, during the public comment portion of the council meeting. “However, for this council to propose orders that differ from the county will only lead to confusion for the residents of the city of Los Angeles, not to mention compliance challenges for employers, employees and patrons alike.
 This confusion can lead to the further slowdown of any economic recovery.

“We believe that a mandate is in order and have advocated for statewide guidance,” she continued. “A statewide mandate will ensure the consistent application and enforcement of guidance from one jurisdiction to the next. Short of statewide guidance, any local proposed ordinance will not be effective. For this reason, we urge (the council) to consider the proposal that at a minimum aligns with the public health order of L.A. County.”

In addition, Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, president and chief executive of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber, raised concerns about jurisdiction issues as well as the absence of a sunset clause that would end the enforcement of the rule.

“Businesses have been bearing the brunt of all these mandates since the beginning and we would like all of our different levels of government to look for a way to move forward without continually putting it on businesses all the time,” Hoffman Vanyek said.

“We have been following the county health orders for the last two years, and we should continue to remain aligned with the county's direction. The city ordinance is much stricter than the county’s and has different implementation guidelines than other jurisdictions, not just the county, but even West Hollywood,” she said.

“So when that happens, it creates confusion among the patrons in the businesses both and it also places businesses in L.A. at a competitive disadvantage to other neighboring areas.”

The ordinance will be tied to the city’s COVID-19 emergency order and has no metrics for determining an end to enforcement.

“It really puts an unnecessary burden on our business community at a time when we’re still trying to recover from the pandemic and its related economic catastrophe,” Hoffman Vanyek said.