The party, according to a spokesperson for the Hollywood bar, was meant to be a mix of first responders to celebrate their profession.
CNN was briefed on the event from a source with direct knowledge of the party, who was told it would involve 100-150 law enforcement personnel at the Sassafras Saloon.
The crowd inside was clearly visible through the bar windows from the sidewalk on Friday night, drinking cocktails under flashing lights to the club music so loud it rattled the security bars. Participants entered through the back door, where a small desk with a candle greeted them outside.
The owners of the Sassafras Saloon rented the bar to someone who wanted to “honor a group of first responders,” according to Lisa Strangis, spokesperson for the 1933 Group, owner of the bar in North Vine St.
The man, who refused to identify himself, said: “Everyone is spaced out. Everyone wears clothes. Everyone is doing temperature checks. ”
CNN hasn’t observed any of this.
The event took place as California surpassed 500,000 Covid-19 cases – the highest number of cases for any state in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday, more than 9,300 people in the state had died since the start of the pandemic.
In a statement to CNN on Sunday, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department said, “We are investigating reports of a private party inside and are recalling all businesses that received the order. to close their activities inside that there are no exceptions. This is exactly the situation that puts our entire community at unnecessary risk. ”
But California is not the only one. In recent weeks, cases have increased in many states across the country, with health experts and officials repeatedly pointing to large gatherings as one of the many causes of spikes in cases.
Sheriff’s department denies presence of deputies
Social media posts alleged that those attending Friday’s party were deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, prompting the agency to open an investigation on Saturday to find out whether MPs violated orders county sanitary facilities.
In a statement posted on Facebook, LASD said the event was not organized by the department, nor that people on social media were LASD employees.
“If further details are discovered and action is warranted, we will take appropriate administrative action,” the department said.
Law enforcement has issued tickets to people who fail to take Covid-19 security measures such as wearing a mask. In West Hollywood, LASD MPs have issued $ 300 bills for early violations when people are not wearing masks.
California Governor Gavin Newsom this week urged his state to “wake up” to the reality of the deadly disease amid rising cases. Newsom’s office and the office of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment on Friday night’s event.
On July 13, the governor announced a new round of restrictions, including shutting down all restaurants inside and closing bars unless they serve food. The state allows al fresco dining in restaurants.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Order also allows alfresco dining at restaurants, bars, or breweries that serve food, but requires bar counters to be closed.
Strangis, the spokesperson for the 1933 group, defended the rally, stating that “California currently allows restaurants and bars with full kitchens to allow patio service. Sassafras is a restaurant and bar with a full kitchen, so we are eligible to operate under these conditions. ”
Sassafras Saloon lists a menu of food on its website.
The 1933 group felt the party was “a wonderful way to celebrate first responders,” Strangis said.
“It’s manageable with this size we’re comfortable with, given the premise of the conversation presented to owners. They therefore agreed to allow this on their premises. “