LA County plans to fine restaurants that violate COVID-19 orders

Los Angeles County businesses could be fined or even temporarily shut down for ignoring coronavirus safety protocols, authorities said.

The LA County Board of Supervisors introduced a motion Tuesday night that would enforce penalties for non-compliant businesses that fail to implement safety measures such as physical distancing guidelines and face covering requirements.

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

Officials said repeat offenders could even have their business permits or liquor licenses provoked.

The board is concerned that the current method is not adequate given the recent surge of coronavirus cases.

RELATED: LA County reports highest number of new COVID-19 cases, blames backlog error for large portion

“Now business is slow, but we don’t complain”, said Jose Valdez, the general manager at The Original Pantry Cafe in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Workers at the Pantry Cafe have been wearing both masks and face shields, but according to health officials, that is not the case at some restaurants across the county. 

On June 16, Los Angeles County inspectors reported of the 2,000 restaurants they visited over the June 13-14 weekend, half of them failed to meet coronavirus guidelines.

Two weekends later, inspectors said a third of restaurants and half of the bars they inspected were not adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

RELATED: Officials say many restaurants struggle to meet coronavirus health guidelines

Bars and restaurants that fail to post safety guidelines for customers to see is the most common violation, county officials said.

All bars, restaurants and gyms were ordered to close by county officials on March 16 to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Many restaurants shifted to offering takeout and delivery service to survive.

On May 29, LA County restaurants were given the green light to reopen for dine-in service and bars were allowed to reopen by June 19.

However, bar and restaurant owners and employees are now faced with another obstacle.

Before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for the immediate closure of indoor operations at multiple sectors including bars and restaurants for at least the next three weeks in 19 California counties. The order was implemented on July 1.

"We would definitely like to be making money to pay our bills, but like every other restaurant we are suffering right now," said Valdez.

The plan presented by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors lists the following:

1. Consider a variable fine amount, based on the maximum occupancy of the facility, the level of non-compliance, and any other appropriate factors to ensure that the fine amount correlates to the public health risk the business’ non-compliance poses;

2. Impose a fine upon the first finding of non-compliance by an Environmental Health Inspector;

3. Impose fines for non-compliance on all businesses over which DPH has authority to impose such fines; and

4. Establish a protocol such that after a business is found out of compliance and is fined, its permit may be revoked as soon as the second visit to the business.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has 14 days to come up with an enforcement policy. 

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