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L.A. County plans to fine restaurants that violate COVID-19 health orders

Waiters with breakfast plates at the Original Pantry in downtown Los Angeles.
Waiter Jesus Segura, left, puts on gloves as waiter Alex Ortiz, passes by with breakfast plates for dine-in customers at rhe Original Pantry in downtown Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion Tuesday that will allow county health officials to impose fines or immediately revoke the permits of restaurants not complying with COVID-19 health orders.

The motion, introduced by supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Janice Hahn, expressed concern that the county’s current method for inspecting restaurants is not adequate, given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“If we hope to slow the rapid increase in new cases while still allowing businesses to reopen, we must ensure that businesses are following the Health Officer Orders and guidelines,” the motion said.

The Department of Public Health now has 14 days to present an enforcement plan for approval, which will detail how large of a fine can be levied against a restaurant, as determined by the maximum occupancy of the business and the severity of violations. A restaurant’s operating permit could also be revoked after a second violation is reported.

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Inspectors found that from June 27 to 28, 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants were not adhering to physical distancing protocols indoors, while 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants were not enforcing face mask and face shield requirements.

Under current rules, although a restaurant can temporarily be shut down after a “third, fourth or fifth visit” from an inspector, officials are often directed to advise the business on areas of noncompliance and eventually issue a violation order, which does not include a fine.

“The entire process from the first visit to the decision to temporarily shut down a business can take several weeks, saps significant DPH resources, and potentially exposes hundreds or thousands of people to COVID-19,” the motion said. “We have neither the time nor the government resources to continue to spend weeks counseling businesses that should be prepared to adhere to public health rules before ever reopening.”


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