Welcome back to 20’s prohibition: Beverly Hills eatery discreetly invites customers to New Year’s Eve party

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A high-end Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills known to attract stars is being criticized for inviting a select group of patrons to a “speakeasy”-style indoor dinner for New Year’s Eve in violation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Owners of La Scala were blasted on social media platforms after a reporter based in Los Angeles posted a notice Friday that the eatery was planning the indoor dining event.

“Welcome back to the 20’s Prohibition,” said the notice. “Speak Easy – New Year’s Eve Dinner.”

“We are considering taking reservations for New Year’s Eve dinner. Inside. If this is something you’d be interested in, please let us know as soon as possible. If enough interest we’ll contact you back to secure a reservation,” the note continued. “Please keep this discreet, but tell all your friends.”

L.A.-based journalist Alissa Walker managed to obtain a copy of the notice and posted it online, after which Beverly Hills officials said they contacted the restaurant’s owners.

“Merry Christmas everyone! La Scala’s Beverly Hills location is tucking these invitations to an indoor New Year’s Eve dinner in their takeout bags,” she wrote in a post with the notice, adding three skull emojis.

“The City has made direct contact with representatives of La Scala to confirm the conditions of the County’s Health Order,” city spokesman Keith Sterling told the Daily Mail Online.

“We understand this is an incredibly difficult time for all of our businesses, however, the County Order does currently prohibit indoor and outdoor dining, including in the City of Beverly Hills,” he added.

Several users online reacted with anger to La Scala’s attempt to skirt the rules.

The term ‘speakeasy’ is in reference to illegal underground night clubs and drinking parlors that sprang up throughout the United States during the Prohibition era, which followed the ratification of the 18th Amendment outlawing alcoholic beverages in 1919.

They were called speakeasies because those who frequented them discussed them discreetly so as not to tip off law enforcement authorities.

The era gave rise to gangsters like Al Capone who trafficked in illegal liquor. Eventually, Prohibition was repealed via the 21st Amendment in 1933.

Beginning Dec. 6, most of California to include Los Angeles County and the bulk of the southern portion of the state were once again put under tougher pandemic restrictions as new cases began to spike. Among the restrictions is a ban on indoor dining.

The inside dining ban will only be lifted once intensive care unit bed availability rises above 15 percent capacity.

The Daily Mail Online noted that as the new dining restrictions took place, health inspectors and other authorities began to increase their enforcement efforts, especially at restaurants and shopping malls following Christmas on Friday in a bid to curb the dramatic rise in cases in the Golden State.

According to Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday, “a person now dies every 10 minutes in LA County from COVID-19 – and since many of these deaths are preventable, our collective focus should be on doing right to save lives.”

She added: “I hope we can each find the strength and courage to take responsibility for each other’s well-being.”

Despite California’s tough new restrictions, the state remains one of the worst in terms of new COVID-19 cases, even as a growing number of health experts say widespread lockdowns are unnecessary and ineffective.

“The right approach, before the vaccine, is to work to protect the elderly. Those are the people – especially living in nursing homes – are the ones who are at the highest risk of death if they were to get infected by” the virus, said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, earlier this month.

“Whereas these broad lockdowns, I think they cause a lot of harm to the non-elderly. They’re not doing very much to slow the spread of the disease,” he added.

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” World Health Organization rep Dr. David Nabarro said.

Jon Dougherty

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