LA restaurants sent to frontlines of vaccine enforcement

In order to use indoor restaurants in the City of Los Angeles, patrons must show proof of full COVID vaccination. But according to Kim Prince, the owner of Hotville Chicken, small business owners and restaurant operators are being forced to become vaccine police to comply with the health order. Photo courtesy of Hotville Chicken/Andrea D'Agosto Photography.

Going out in the City of Los Angeles is a little more involved than it used to be: You now have to show full COVID vaccination proof to enter gyms, movie theaters, nail or hair salons, and restaurants. 

That’s causing headaches for businesses who must enforce the rule but are short on workers.

Kim Prince, the owner of Hotville Chicken in the Crenshaw District, tells KCRW that the vaccination requirement is posing another challenge to her business. 

How are customers responding to the city's new requirement to show proof of vaccination at restaurants?

Most people seem like they are already prepared. 

But we’ve had a few over the past week that were a little startled. They looked shell-shocked because it was their first time hearing about it.

There were a few mumbles and grumbles, and a few profanities, but nothing was directed right at us. I’ve had a couple of people who left the restaurant.

Does having to check people’s vaccination status make your employees uncomfortable?

Initially, they were a little uneasy about it because you never know how the guest is going to respond. 

It’s hard to profile people as they're walking from the parking lot. 

We braced ourselves. For the first week, I made sure I was out front too, just in case, but we haven’t had any big blow-ups or incidents.

How do you feel about having to enforce the vaccine requirement?

We don't want to be judge and jury per se. Should people come in and have a medical exemption? Do they want to sit down outside? I don't know how to determine what's real and what's not real.

I don't want to put my workers in that position to have to make a determination on the spot. We're not the COVID police. We are not health care professionals.

Do you feel that the requirement is justified?

I get it. The numbers are spiking, the surges are real. My family just buried a dear friend in Tennessee who died of COVID and was not vaccinated. He was young, and he should not have gone that way. So we're doing our due diligence. 

Do you think the vaccination rule will have an impact on your business?

Our neighborhood needs more people vaccinated. I was concerned about how our business would fare in the long run if so many in the area were not vaccinated. I rely on the neighborhood that I'm in to feed into my business. 

We weathered all of 2020, but we were on life support. We're pulling out every stop in order to just keep our doors open and keep our staff. It's just been really, really difficult. I don't know how much more we can take.



Chery Glaser


Darrell Satzman