LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to remove shopping malls from the list of indoor venues that must require customers to show proof of Covid vaccination before entering.
The same leaders passed one of strictest vaccination mandates in the country in October, covering restaurants, bars, coffee shops, hair and nail salons, theaters, gyms, museums and bowling alleys, among other places. Patrons must either show proof of full vaccination or proof of vaccination exemption for either medical or religious reasons and a recent Covid negative test. On Monday, the city began issuing citations to businesses who were not complying with the law. Fines start at $1,000, and will rise with every subsequent violation, topping out at $5,000.
This month, a report by the Chief Legislative Analyst's office indicated "the ability for a mall operator to effectively manage and control each entryway into their facility presents a unique challenge."
The City Council apparently agreed, voting unanimously and without discussion to remove malls and similar shopping centers from the mandate.
"They might have 10 entrances, they might have 15, 20 entrances," said Councilman Paul Koretz, after the vote. "And the practicality of checking people at each entrance is just logistically too difficult and expensive to put on them."
Mall patrons will still have to show proof of vaccination in order to eat at food courts and enter an individual shops.
The original ordinance passed 11-2, with Councilmen Joe Buscaino and John Lee, both of whom used to be registered Republicans — Buscaino is now a Democrat, Lee is an independent — voting no. At the time, Lee said the new law was "punitive" to small businesses. Some worried that the law would create conflicts between customers and low-wage workers.
Buscaino had questioned a city attorney staffer about shoppers in malls, asking if people would be forced to show proof of vaccination multiple times if they went into multiple shops. The staffer said no, as long as the customer showed proof of vaccination at the mall's entrance.
As the law has been practiced, most customers have been showing their vaccination proof upon their first interaction with a store's employee, not at an entrance.
Though some business groups initially spoke out against the ordinance, Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, said it was necessary for the government to step in and create a standard rather than leave the decisions up to individual businesses.
"We wanted uniformity," he said. "The city did make it easier for a lot of businesses."
Waldman also praised the decision to exempt shopping malls.
"Most shopping malls are outdoor now," he said. "Even those that aren’t — there’s a difference between being in a small room with a low ceiling and the common area of a shopping mall."Follow @hillelaron
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