L.A. City Council allows businesses to turn away patrons without masks

A pedestrian, wearing a mask, is reflected in the storefront of L.A. Suits along Maple Street in the Garment District.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to authorize businesses to refuse to admit or serve patrons not wearing a face covering.

The proposal was first introduced by Councilman Herb Wesson in July.

“Small business owners and their employees are risking their lives to stay afloat in the midst of this economic and public health crisis,” Wesson said at the time. “Wearing a mask saves lives, and this simple, common-sense law will save lives and allow us to beat this virus sooner rather than later.”

Shoppers make their way along Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The council adopted the ordinance unanimously, with no discussion. Wesson, who is trailing in his bid for a seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, was not present.

The ordinance will automatically expire when the city’s coronavirus declaration of emergency is lifted.

Masks have been mandatory in the city since May, when Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an order requiring Angelenos to wear face coverings when outside the home or near other people.

If nearly all Americans would wear face masks when they leave their homes, they could save over 100,000 lives by the end of February, a study says.

Oct. 23, 2020

In deeply Democratic Los Angeles, residents have generally taken to the mask mandate, especially inside stores.

But businesses had been left with little recourse when customers weren’t compliant. One woman’s anti-mask tirade went viral after she refused to mask up in a North Hollywood Trader Joe’s, while a taco restaurant temporarily closed its two locations after employees were harassed by customers over its “no mask, no service” policy.

The crowd of shoppers is thick on Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“Any business owner or operator in the City of Los Angeles is authorized to refuse admittance or service to any person who refuses or fails to wear a Face Covering when on the premises of the business or when seeking or receiving service,” the ordinance states.

Los Angeles County is in the “purple” tier of the state’s color-coded reopening system, meaning the highest risk of local infection. As of Wednesday, the county has reported more than 307,000 cases of coronavirus and 7,076 deaths.

The county’s positivity rate, or percentage of people testing positive for the virus, is also climbing, increasing to 2.7% from 1.8% two weeks ago, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Wesson’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

City News Service contributed to this report.