Pasadena stepping up enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions and may consider new rules

Four patrons in masks sit at sidewalk tables outside Perle restaurant and one person at another table is maskless.
Patrons enjoy outside dining earlier this month at Perle Restaurant in Pasadena.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

After agreeing to continue allowing outdoor dining, Pasadena is stepping up enforcement of coronavirus rules and may consider new restrictions amid a statewide surge in new cases and hospitalizations.

The city, which is one of two in Los Angeles County with its own health department, decided not to follow the countywide ban on in-person dining at restaurants. Its city council opted this week to permit restaurants to remain open for outdoor service, provided they take the proper precautions. The council did not vote on the move, which came after an extensive discussion and public comment, but decided to reassess the situation on a daily basis, said Pasadena city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

For the record:

2:54 p.m. Nov. 28, 2020An earlier version of this article said the Pasadena City Council voted this week to permit restaurants to remain open for outdoor service. It did not vote on the matter.

“The city has invested a lot of money and the restaurants have invested a lot of money in their heaters and their tents so we are trying very hard to work with them,” Derderian said.


But compliance has been mixed. Health inspectors conducted about 60 site visits Wednesday and Thursday, and the majority of restaurants — more than 40 — were violating the rules, she said.

“The most common violations included no face shields, tables not properly distanced and enclosed dining areas,” she said.

On Friday, follow-up inspections found that five of the restaurants had not taken basic steps to correct the violations, and those locations were shut down for in-person dining and takeout and delivery services, Derderian said. The restaurants must go through a hearing and re-inspection before they can reopen, a process that is expected to take several days, she said.

“Each restaurant probably has 30 to 40 employees that are now affected by this, so it impacts many by not abiding by the simple regulations,” Derderian said.

The city’s management team plans to meet with its health officer and hospital officials Monday to decide whether it’s necessary to modify existing health orders, including by ending outdoor dining.

“I hope we don’t get to that point but that is a possibility,” Derderian said. “This is where we need everybody to really be cognizant of their day-to-day activities and looking out for each other because it’s going to affect a much bigger audience if just a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch.”

Still, she said, city officials believe that restaurants “are a small percentage of the bigger picture when it comes to the COVID numbers.”

Large gatherings continue to pose a problem, particularly at the city’s numerous parks and outdoor areas, Derderian said.

This weekend, the city is dispatching enforcement teams consisting of health inspectors and code compliance officers to parks and the Rose Bowl loop to break up gatherings and write citations if needed, she said.

Police officers will get involved only as a last resort “if it turns into noncompliance or any type of confrontation,” she said.

“We want people to get out for their mental and physical well-being but where we see these softball and soccer games going on, families cheering on their kids while they’re playing, not wearing masks, that’s prohibited,” Derderian said. “So unfortunately we’ll be breaking up those activities.”