Confusion: Some restaurants are mistakenly saying that Santa Monica has a vaccine mandate to dine indoors. Clara Harter

With the City of Santa Monica, City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles each having different health directives, the resulting melange of mandates can prove confusing for residents and business owners — particularly when it comes to indoor vaccination requirements.

In Santa Monica proof of vaccination is required to work at or visit indoor bars, breweries, nightclubs and lounges, per overarching County orders. Proof of vaccination is not required to dine indoors at restaurants, however individual restaurant owners may voluntarily choose to enforce a vaccine requirement.

For example, the Rustic Canyon Family of restaurants, which operates eight Santa Monica eateries, has been requiring proof of vaccination to eat indoors since Aug. 16.

“As restaurants reopened indoor dining, we wanted to make sure we were creating a safe gathering space for our guests while not putting our employees at risk,” said Rustic Canyon Family President Joel Dixon. “We looked to cities around the nation and beyond on how they were handling indoor dining and it looked like the safest way was to require vaccinations or a negative COVID test from our guests dining indoors.”

According to Dixon, the group has not had too many challenges enforcing this rule. In order to avoid issues they have posted the policy on their website, in their reservation responses and on their entrances. Additionally, all of their restaurants have ample outdoor dining spaces if people are unvaccinated.

The voluntary nature of indoor vaccination mandates at local restaurants has been a point of confusion, with some restaurants erroneously displaying signage saying that the City of Santa Monica requires vaccination to dine indoors.

This confusion is likely due to the fact that such a requirement exists in the City of Los Angeles, as well as in West Hollywood, Pasadena and Long Beach.

On Oct. 6, Los Angeles City Council passed a sweeping indoor vaccination mandate that came into effect on Nov. 8. This mandate requires proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, fitness centers, personal care facilities, entertainment venues and city facilities.

This mandate resurfaced in headlines this week as on Nov. 29, the City of L.A. began enforcing its mandate after a three week outreach and education period. Enforcement begins with a warning of non compliance, followed by a range of fines starting at a $1,000 ticket and topping out at a $5,000 ticket.

Santa Monica could opt to adopt its own indoor vaccination mandate that extends beyond the County’s regulations, however this would need to be brought forward by City Councilmembers.

According to Mayor Sue Himmelrich, this subject is being considered, but is not moving forward with any haste at this time.

“A couple of us have discussed following the City of L.A. as opposed to the County,” said Himmelrich. “We are waiting and watching to determine the progression of cases and how successful L.A. City’s enforcement proves.”

As the recent threat of the omicron variant has destabilized predictions about the pandemic’s retreat, public officials are placing greater emphasis on the need for vaccines and vaccine mandates.

In response to omicron, the CDC expanded its recommendation for COVID booster shots on Monday to include anyone age 18 or older, as opposed to just the elderly or immunocompromised.

“While we don’t know for certain the impact of omicron, we’re clear that there are immediate action steps we can each take to protect each other and continue to slow transmission of COVID-19,” said County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “The most effective tool remains the vaccines.”

Clara@smdp.com