A significant COVID-19 milestone took place in West Hollywood on October 7: The unincorporated city of Los Angeles County began requiring at least one dose of a COVID vaccine to enter the indoor sections of restaurants as well as bars, clubs, gyms and retailers. Negative COVID-19 tests are not accepted. On November 4, a full vaccination certificate is required in West Hollywood for all 18 and older who eat indoors, otherwise people will have to order takeaway or opt for a patio table. This pandemic-forward thinking should come as no surprise: it is only the latest example of West Hollywood’s leadership in matters of public welfare since its inception as a city in the mid-1980s.
West Hollywood’s health ordinance is similar to an ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council on October 6. And although LA County’s health ordinance requiring bars and nightclubs to ask for vaccination certificates also began Oct. 7, cities like West Hollywood and LA have passed their own mandates for dining and working in restaurants. Those who visit restaurants like Ardor or WeHo Bistro, or get a show at venues like Roxy and Viper Room, will notice signs acknowledging the new policy. Unless workers can secure a medical or religious exemption or undergo frequent and periodic testing, employees must also be fully vaccinated by the November 4 deadline. Violators will be fined and cited.
Companies like Abbey were on board with these rules long before the West Hollywood health order passed. Since July 30, drinkers and diners at the iconic West Hollywood restaurant and club have been required to present proof of a vaccine to enter. A spokesman for Abbey tells Eater LA that the business slowed down during the first few weeks of vaccine claims, but eventually returned to normal.
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister says her city’s vaccination mandate is one of the toughest in the nation, but historically it’s nothing special; the city has always taken more aggressive approaches to health mandates. “The City of West Hollywood has always been the vanguard that is nationally recognized as a leader in a wide range of social issues,” Meister says. “Through the corona pandemic, we have provided more than $ 1.5 million in rental assistance, was one of the only municipalities in the country that implemented mask requirements with administration fees for non-compliance, and now has one of the strictest vaccination mandates in the country. Continuing to keep our community safe and healthy is the city’s top priority. ”
West Hollywood’s proactive policies reflect a history in which it has established itself as a city with the first, by creating its own attitudes, policies, programs and laws that tackle social and health issues well before most cities had a chance. to introduce the topic. West Hollywood — along with San Francisco — was early in setting California’s strictest rules around COVID-19. During the early summer, the West Hollywood Council instructed its city attorney to investigate and prepare a report on vaccine mandates. While Los Angeles City Council passed its own proof of vaccination ordinance on October 6, West Hollywood started the process back in mid-July, weeks before New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced companies would require proof of eating indoors in August. .
When West Hollywood was founded in 1984, officials immediately embarked on social programs to address the impact of the HIV / AIDS epidemic, rent control, and community building. These decades-long social programs are specifically for LGBTQ women, seniors, teens, and those with families. The programs include affordable housing stabilization regulations and policies, and according to West Hollywood strategic initiatives, manager Corri Planck can be reflected by other government agencies. “If all other communities had made that kind of housing policy, we might be able to look at a different kind of experience in our greater LA region than we are right now in terms of affordability and homelessness,” Planck says.
West Hollywood also paved the way for the establishment of cannabis pharmacies for medical use. In the 1980s, the HIV / AIDS epidemic significantly affected the queer population of West Hollywood, and the city council responded by deepening a commitment to medical use of cannabis, which was approved nationwide in 1996.
“For decades, West Hollywood has been an innovator and a risk taker in the cannabis field, including being one of the first cities to allow medical cannabis supply in the early 2000s,” said John Leonard, the city’s community and legislator. affairs. The original four medical pharmacies – MedMen, Alternative Herbal Health Services, the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group and the Zen Healing Collective – are all still in operation today.
In 2016, as legal recreational cannabis use began to be embraced in the United States, West Hollywood began working on the idea of becoming a destination for cannabis users. City officials quickly followed the process for those looking to open hash shops, supplying pots and pantries after California voters passed Proposition 64 in 2017. What was gathered during this period is what operators describe as the “green” rush “, where opportunists spent tens of thousands of dollars applying for a coveted permit that allows consumers to smoke or vaporize cannabis or eat THC-supplied food or beverages in a particular lounge. In 2019, West Hollywood officials approved applications, and Original Cannabis Cafe (originally called Lowell Cafe) opened as California and the country’s first lounge for cannabis use. Guests can smoke from a bong, eat an edible meal or have a tender tender roll a common table side at Original Cannabis Cafe, even though the place is still temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
West Hollywood’s cultural institutions were established long before it actually became a city. Due to its status as an unincorporated unit in LA County, the area was able to build a distinctive culture similar to that of San Francisco’s Castro, WeHo’s queer-friendly neighbor to the north. In the pre-1984 period, the neighborhood was able to comply with stricter rules in populated areas of LA County to open adult entertainment venues and welcome gay bars in the 1970s. Some have had an impact beyond Southern California, such as Abbey, which is without a doubt the most famous queer bar in the country. Iconic West Hollywood clubs like Rage and the Factory are closed but have had an indelible influence on queer and dance culture.
Some of LA’s most historically and culturally significant restaurants have also been located in West Hollywood. Chasen’s, on Beverly Boulevard near Doheny, opened in 1936 and became a celebrity hotspot where Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were regulars with their own permanent tables. Nancy Reagan and Donna Summer were also known for visiting the place in the 70s and 80s; it closed in 1995. Dan Tana’s has been a star magnet since opening in 1967 and remains a popular A-list destination. From 1925 to its completely renovated state today, Formosa Cafe was a legendary Hollywood haunt. Other prominent restaurants in West Hollywood include modern Thai eateries Night + Market, Italian-influenced Olivetta, Drake and Justin Bieber’s favorite Delilah and perennial paparazzi spot Catch LA.
Many of West Hollywood’s dining and drinking establishments are still deep in preparation to abide by the new health orders; others are saddened by the annual Halloween Carnival – which draws hundreds of thousands of people most years – was canceled for the second year in a row in September. The parade’s largest stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard is one of the busiest for restaurants, clubs and bars in West Hollywood. Marinating restaurant owner Mat Yuriditsky is concerned that some decisions are affecting his business. “They canceled Halloween when ours [infection and hospitalization] figures are lower than elsewhere in the country, ”he says. “They have baseball and football games in stadiums, but we can not have a parade for Halloween, which is one of our busiest days of the year.” A 2016 economic impact study estimated that West Hollywood brings in $ 4.2 million in revenue on Halloween, with 36 percent spent on food and drink.
As restaurant owners and workers in West Hollywood struggle to navigate a pandemic, keep their doors open, and adapt to new health orders, the city continues to lead the way, well before the county or even LA city enforces its rules. . While this follows a tradition of thinking fast to maintain public safety and health, it is unclear what shorter and longer term effects this will have for businesses that rely on busy dining rooms and major events to thrive, and defines West Hollywood as a restaurant and nightlife has been around for decades.