Sharon Town Lee ripped off a cluster of laminated public health flyers from the front window of her pet grooming salon in Santa Monica Tuesday.
It's June 15, the day widespread mask mandates and social distancing protocols in California become concepts of the past.
Sports fans and concert goers can now scream into the air. At Disneyland, visitors can again wait in long lines and crowd around princesses as the park expands its capacity limits.
Under state protocols, vaccinated individuals are no longer required to cover their faces at gyms, in the grocery store or other indoor settings — minus a few exceptions.
And many business owners including Town Lee are letting customers inside mask-free, without checking vaccination records.
Sharon Town Lee ripped off a cluster of laminated public health flyers from the front window of her pet grooming salon in Santa Monica.Photo by Francesca Billington
"It's not our responsibility to show whether you've been vaccinated," said Town Lee, who chairs the local business district spanning Pico Boulevard and gave her employees incentives to get vaccinated.
The state's updates come as a relief. Town Lee, who is hearing impaired, can read her customers' lips again. While her small shop was largely empty in the morning, most people walking along the business district wore masks.
Private businesses can now pick between one of three state protocols: require all patrons to wear a mask, trust customers who say they've gotten the shot or establish a "vaccination verification process."
"It's a sensitive thing to ask people," said Rod Martinez, a supervisor at Literati Cafe in Los Angeles. "So we're not."
The question of enforcement remains murky — not to mention optional.
Last week, Newsom hinted at a new state-endorsed verification system to help private businesses hoping to check. SFGate reported that it'll look like a digital vaccine card designed to replace the paper ones issued by pharmacies and doctors.
How — and even if — stores and restaurants will ask customers to prove vaccination credentials is up to them, Newsom said. The governor was quick to remind viewers that his tech system isn't a so-called vaccine "passport," messaging that echoes tech startups like Healthvana.
"There's no mandates, no requirements, no passports in that respect," Newsom said during a press briefing Friday after drawing more winners for the state's cash vaccine incentive program.
Some business owners worry that requiring masks could turn off potential customers. Town Lee said that it almost feels like discriminating against people who don't want to be vaccinated for a variety of reasons.
At Ace Hardware in West L.A. store manager Brian Peacock said that three hours after opening, only one customer stepped inside without a mask.
"He walked in and said, 'I'm vaccinated!'" said Peacock. "For the most part, everybody has been wanting to wear a mask."
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Wave, an entertainment technology company that turns performers into digital avatars and puts them on virtual stages where they can entertain and interact with fans, announced a $30 million series B fundraise on Wednesday.
The L.A.-based company has now raised $40 million total.
Live performances typically comprise upwards of 70% of musicians' incomes. With in-person shows shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, the music industry has been embracing new ways to generate revenue and drive fan engagement. Wave represents one such channel.
The fundraise was led by Seattle-based Maveron and SF-based Griffin Gaming Partners. L.A.-based Raised in Space also invested, as did several entrepreneurs, including Alex Rodriguez and Scooter Braun.
Braun, who manages megastars Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, likes how Wave CEO Adam Arrigo is bringing tech to the music industry.
"The future of the industry depends on it," Braun said in the funding announcement. "Adam and his team at Wave are bridging these two very important industries to create transformative experiences for the next generation of concert-goers, with a refreshingly artist-first approach."
Maveron general partner David Wu added: "We believe Wave is perfectly positioned to build the defining consumer brand at the intersection of music, gaming, and social interactivity."
"My cofounder (Aaron Lemke) and I started the company four years ago to help musicians make money," Arrigo told dot.LA. "We've been touring musicians and we know how hard it is."
Eventually they realized that Wave shouldn't simply try to recreate a real concert, but rather leverage the opportunities unique to the digital world.
"Our shows have rarely looked like normal concerts," Arrigo says. "Artists can be 1000x their size. Fans can be flying above the stage."
Wave has hosted more than 50 events for audiences of up to 400,000, for artists including John Legend, Imogen Heap and Tinashe. Fans can watch shows through VR headsets, via desktop, and on gaming devices.
Arrigo's career has centered on the intersection of music and gaming. He was formerly a game designer of the Rock Band video game franchise.
"From working on that game I learned that when you create new experiences you can create additional revenue streams for the industry," he says.
To that end, Arrigo doesn't imagine that Wave will replace in-person concerts; instead he hopes to complement them. He points out that although ticket prices for live shows have skyrocketed over the years, the scale of a virtual performance — where millions of people attend for free — can make it much more favorable for an artist than filling the 20,000 seats at the Staples Center.
The company's business model, Arrigo says, is based on in-app purchases, a percentage of which are shared with the performer.
"We give musicians a platform that allows them to reach fans in new ways," he says.
But Arrigo envisions growing beyond music.The platform's "new category" of performance combines elements of gaming, interactivity and social media. He thinks it can expand into theater, sports and stand-up comedy, among other events.
"We're really optimistic about the health of the business and people connecting virtually," he says.
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