Credit: Celsim Junior/Flickr.

La Scala NYE Speak-Easy Plan Draws Ire on Social Media

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La Scala, an upscale Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills famous for its chopped salad, became the center of some heated drama this holiday weekend after an invitation to a clandestine New Year’s Eve event circulated on Twitter.

It all began on Christmas Day, when reporter Alissa Walker shared a photo of the invitation on Twitter, adding that the restaurant was tucking the slip of paper into takeout bags. According to the invite, La Scala was “considering” taking reservations for a “Prohibition speak-easy” New Year’s Eve dinner that would be held indoors. The invite also noted, “Please keep this discreet, but tell all your friends.”

It’s unclear why La Scala thought no one would tattle on them, but Walker’s post quickly spread.  

Do you know what else is spreading quickly? COVID-19. Following the traveling and gathering people did over Thanksgiving, case counts have remained at an all-time high. Just yesterday, Los Angeles County reported 44 new deaths (9,482 to-date) and 13,580 new cases. The 7-day average positivity rate is now 17.5%.

L.A. County also reported 6,815 hospitalizations yesterday, while Southern California’s intensive care capacity remains at 0%. With resources stretched thin and medical staff overwhelmed, public health officials warn hospitals may soon ration care. According to the Los Angeles Times, hospitals already have to leave patients on ambulances for hours while also moving patients that would otherwise be in the ICU elsewhere. If hospitals are forced to ration care, that means those less likely to survive will not receive the same care they would have if resources weren’t limited. Instead, staff will focus on patients with a better outlook. More people are likely to die — some not even from COVID-19 but because of the strain the virus has put on hospital systems.

This Thanksgiving surge isn’t likely to fade away either. The Transportation Security Administration screened about 1.76 million passengers the Sunday after Thanksgiving and 1.19 million passengers on Dec. 23. And now, all those people are headed back home. Yesterday, TSA officials screened 1.28 million passengers.

Anyhow, back to La Scala and their decision to host an indoor event even as public health officials plead with us to stay home and avoid gatherings.

La Scala is now owned by founder Jean Leon’s daughter, Gigi Leon. The restaurant’s management has not been shy about their opinions on current health orders. Their Instagram page features a highlight labeled “Bullshit,” where the restaurant lambasts state, county and city officials’ decisions regarding COVID-19 and encouraging patrons to #recallNewsom.

Businesses that have been shut down or forced to limit operations since March are struggling, and many have resorted to GoFundMe to pay back loans or cover operating costs. La Scala, however, is one of the only businesses flagrantly flirting with violating health orders at a time when hospital workers are begging people to stay home.

Today, La Scala’s Instagram feed features a mix of people calling the restaurant’s management “selfish” and “dangerous morons,” paired with people applauding them for bucking restrictions. It is, if you will, a chopped salad of mixed opinions.

It’s unclear what will happen, if anything, to La Scala. Beverly Hills spokesperson Keith Sterling told the L.A. Times that the city had reached out to remind La Scala of the health order, while the Beverly Hills Police Department responded to Walker’s tweet saying they had been made aware of the matter and would be “handling” it. It’s not clear what handling it might mean. La Scala said they were only “considering” an event, so it’s quite possible the speak-easy won’t happen at all. The only thing they’ve done is lose business from those taking health officials seriously and gain business from those who believe businesses should reopen.

Yelp has noted it’s monitoring La Scala’s rating — which has tanked to 2.5 stars — due to current media reports.

Los Angeleno