[dropcap size=big]N[/dropcap]ext time you go to the bar, make sure to bring your ID and your vaccine card (if you have one). L.A. TACO has learned that more than 40 bars — including The Short Stop, Footsie’s, Blind Barber, Bar Henry, The Lash, Melody Lounge and Gold Diggers Bar — have updated their COVID-19 policies within the past several days, and more are likely to follow.
At the establishments listed above, patrons must show either proof of vaccination or a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival. At the Echo Plex, host of the popular Dub Club night, on top of everyone being required to wear a mask (per L.A. County guidelines), they will temporarily stop accepting cash, and only small plastic, vinyl, or see-through handbags will be permitted (to reduce staff contact with belongings).
These changes come in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Between the 4th of July and last Saturday, when the new county order for everyone to mask while indoors went into effect, the daily number of coronavirus cases quadrupled.
“It’s been a shitty 15 months for everyone, especially businesses in hospitality and live venues.” Bar Henry in Echo Park said in a statement posted on Instagram last Sunday. “Let’s do what we can together to avoid taking steps backwards.”
(Map by Justin Walsh)
According to the health department, the substantial increase in coronavirus cases is being propelled almost exclusively by unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people accounted for more than 99 percent of all COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in L.A. County as of July 12.
Health officials say that vaccines are safe and the most effective way to decrease your chances of contracting coronavirus, but still, roughly 4 million L.A. residents have yet to roll up their sleeves. Reasons for vaccine hesitancy range from issues with access and eligibility to straight-up COVID-19 conspiracy theories that spook people into thinking the vaccines will cause more problems for them rather than likely to prevent them from experiencing serious illness.
The county has given away tickets to Lakers and Clippers games but has still struggled to encourage some hesitant residents to get vaccinated. Requiring customers to show proof of vaccination in order to have a beer at their favorite bar, or attend a music festival, could finally push some folks who are on the fence to get a shot.
Last Sunday, while hundreds of lowriders cruised up and down Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park in the heat, Ian Carr and a group of his friends tried to grab a few cold ones at Bar Henry. “They wouldn't let us sit inside because one of the four of us didn't have their [vaccine card],” Carr told us that although his friend was vaccinated, they didn’t have proof.
For the last six months, Carr has been helping hundreds of primarily people of color, housing-insecure residents, and immigrants get vaxed as an organizer for POWER. “At least with the folks we are focusing on, it's nearly all about access,” he told us. Some people can’t take time off of work. Others have problems getting to a vaccine clinic or potentially standing in lines for long periods of time. “Almost everyone who is just not so sure has been really willing to hear us out, and I would say the majority of hesitant people we were able to convince, and that's because the access was right there,” Carr said. Recently his team has started coordinating mobile vaccinations.
Enjoy your happy hours now because if COVID-19 cases continue to increase, the possibility of another shutdown becomes more likely. During a press conference last Thursday, County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, signaled that stricter restrictions could be implemented if our numbers don’t improve. “All options are on the table,” Davis said. On the same day, the health department reinstated a mask mandate, requiring everyone to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. “Given that we're at this level of substantial transmission, the next level is high transmission. And that's not a place where we want to be,“ Davis said. According to officials, masks provide an extra layer of protection for fully vaccinated folks and encourage non-vaccinated people to mask up.
On social media, most users applauded bars for deciding to revise their COVID-19 policies, but others expressed frustrations. “Make sure to install TVs in every corner of the bar to ensure your new patrons stay brainwashed.” One user on Instagram commented after Footsie’s announced that they would require a negative COVID-19 test or vaccine card to enter their premises. “Congratulations on imposing the will of big pharma and our oh-so trustworthy government,” another user said.
Not every bar is revising their policy, though, at least not yet. Jimmy Han, owner of Rosemallows Bar in Long Beach and Frank ’n Hanks in Koreatown, told L.A. TACO he’s not ready to start requiring his customers to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten to that point,” he said during an interview with L.A. TACO.
For now, Han says, “We still keep masks on and adhere to safe social distancing guidelines and wash our hands and don’t touch our faces.” [Full disclosure: Han owns the popular smash burger pop-up Love Hour, a partner of L.A. TACO’s membership program].
Han describes the food and beverage industry as “tough” but admitted that the last year tested both his wallet as well as his mental and physical health. Another shutdown or more restrictions could make him reconsider the future of his businesses altogether. “Another shutdown would be devastating and could be the last nail in the coffin for me.” But for now, he’s focusing on things getting better. “Preparing for the unknown can be stressful and counter-productive, so I try to focus on the future and the path back to normal business.”
Here is an updated list of all the businesses requiring proof of vaccine.