If Angelenos wanted to go out over the past year, they had to adapt to shifting rules that weren’t always easy to keep up with. Sure, you could eat outside again in January—but you couldn’t watch TV while doing it. Yes, you could go to a bar again in April—but it had to be outdoors and before 10pm.
So when cases of Covid-19 plummeted, vaccination rates rose and statewide restrictions were dropped, it seemed like the bulk of emergency public health rules were behind us for good. But since California’s June 15 reopening, cases in L.A. County—largely among unvaccinated folks—have spiked to levels not seen since the end of the winter surge while shots have slowed, which on July 15 led to L.A. County announcing it would reinstate an indoor mask mandate.
Something unexpected has happened in response, though: A growing number of L.A. bars—and now comedy clubs—have taken it upon themselves to implement even stricter rules by requiring that all patrons either be fully vaccinated or present proof of a negative Covid-19 test result. L.A. Taco has been maintaining an ongoing list of bars to do so, and the number has already increased to 20.
East Hollywood spot Gold-Diggers appeared to be one of the first to put a vaccination policy in place. Only hours after the mask mandate was announced on a Wednesday, the hotel and bar posted to its Instagram that guests would need to present a photo ID and either physical or digital proof of their vaccination status or a negative PCR test from the past three days.
By that Sunday, when the mandate actually took effect, even more bars—like the Short Stop, Footsies and Club Tee Gee—all posted messages with similar phrasing. It was those spots in particular that inspired Permanent Records Roadhouse to do the same out of solidarity. Owner Lance Barresi and general manager Tara Kudlac told us that the Cypress Park record store and bar decided to put the extra precautions in place for the safety of its customers and staff—and hopefully as a bit of encouragement for more people to get vaccinated.
“We’re hoping other bars will follow suit and make the same difficult decision we and other bars and businesses have made already,” they told Time Out. “It was nice to see so many of our supporters came out on our first night open after making this decision specifically because of it.”
Another bar we talked to said they “aren’t trying to make a spectacle out of it” by requiring vaccinations and simply want to mitigate the risk for their staff and clients. That’s been the case, as well, for the pair of comedy clubs that we’ve seen implement similar policies. The Comedy Store announced that it’ll switch to advance tickets only and require proof of vaccination upon entry. Then Largo sent out an email announcing its own similar policy (proof of vaccination of a negative test from the past two days required), saying that wearing masks alone “no longer feels like enough,” and that its “performers and staff deserve to feel as safe as possible”; in a post on Instagram, the theater noted that it’s had to cancel five shows over the next week and a half “because our performers are feeling the risk to them and their loved ones is too high.”
Safety has simply become a paramount priority as the highly-transmissible Delta variant kicks the county’s average number of daily new cases near 2,500, with an increasing number of hospitalizations in its wake that’s made up almost entirely of unvaccinated Angelenos. As The Mercury News pointed out, L.A. County’s seven-day average case rate last week climbed above 10 per 100,000 people (it was below two for much of May and June), which would’ve landed the county in the purple tier of the state’s retired color-coded system—meaning indoor dining and bars would’ve been closed. But those tiers are gone now and there aren’t any sort of capacity or distancing restrictions either, only the mask mandate—and even that is mostly moot in a setting like a bar where tightly-packed patrons are persistently pressing a drink up to their maskless faces.
If you plan on hitting up some bars in L.A. this weekend, it’s probably a good idea to have proof of your vaccination status with you—though we’d personally suggest opting for a digital option over the paper CDC card. California launched a vaccine verification system that lets you pull up digital proof of your shots. But if you got your jab in L.A. County, you should’ve received an email from Healthvana with a link that allows you to add your vaccine card to Apple Wallet or Google Pay (the most convenient option, in our opinion). And if you need to get tested, L.A. County has a list of free testing sites.
This story was originally published July 21, 2021 and has since been updated with new venues and the latest statistics.