“Non-essential” businesses continue to suffer economically due to the local and state mandated orders that they remain closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders. Having failed to comply with these orders by remaining open, dozens of businesses in Los Angeles have been criminally cited and are are being prosecuted by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. Among the most recent business owners charged and prosecuted are individuals who own vape and smoke shops, a massage spa, a car wash, a shoe store, and a beauty supply.
The charge is a misdemeanor violation of LAAC (Los Angeles Administrative Code) § 8.77 and is punishable by up to a $1000 fine, six months in jail, or both. Pursuant to a recent statement by Mayor Garcetti, the City may also seek to have the Department of Water and Power shut down the business’ utility service.
While it is unlikely that a first time offender would in fact face any time in jail on this violation, suffering a misdemeanor conviction in response to a state of despair to maintain a business and stream of income is harsh enough. In light of the nature and punishment associated with this offense, business owners who have been cited and charged with this violation should immediately seek counsel to negotiate a disposition such as diversion or a City Attorney Office hearing to avoid the filing of charges if possible.
This begs the question: what is a “non-essential” business? After all, doesn’t every business owner deem their business “essential”? Comprehensive lists of sectors and industries deemed “essential” businesses that can remain open through the stay-at-home period may be found on the California Department of Public Health’s website: www.cdph.ca.gov.
It’s safe to assume that all unlisted businesses are “non-essential” and must remain closed no matter how essential to the livelihood of their owners, employees, and customers.