Steve August 3, 2020

A famed Los Angeles bar rented space for a party – purportedly for first responders, who have worked tirelessly during the coronavirus pandemic – that appeared to disregard social distancing standards.

Owners of the Sassafras Saloon – on the famed Vine Street between Hollywood and Santa Monica Boulevards – said they would no longer rent their space to private parties following a controversial celebration.

The bar was rented with the understanding that guests would be outside and at a safe distance from one another, owners said.

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“Friday’s gathering was arranged by an individual who wanted to honor a group of first responders,” according to a statement by bar owners, the 1933 Group.

“As this was a private individual’s reservation, it was presented to us in a way that inferred we could expect it to comply with all guidelines, including occupants to be outside on two patios, so it was permitted. We did everything possible to provide our staff and guests with ample outdoor spaces that completely adhered to current safety precautions and social distancing expectations.”

However, the progressive activist group Knock L.A., which appears to support defunding of the L.A.County Sheriff’s Department, reported that maskless revelers were enjoying loud music, drinking and dancing inside the Sassafras Saloon.

The group reported that the party was thrown for the sheriff’s department- though the law enforcement agency and bar managers both said there was no immediate evidence that deputies were involved.

“The persons identified in the video are not employees of the Sheriff’s Department and this event was not hosted by the LASD,” and an investigation has been launched, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The bar’s owners acknowledged that much of the event was conducted indoors against state health mandates.

“Unfortunately, there were a number of guests that did not comply. We unequivocally do not condone this behavior and have no intention of agreeing to additional private events, charitable or otherwise, until the state allows,” the 1933 Group said.

Janhvi Bhojwani

Janhvi Bhojwani is a desk assistant with NBC News in Washington, DC.

Image: David K. LiDavid K. Li

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Andrew Blankstein


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