LA’s Kitson store bans COVID-19 masks, citing crime

Fraser Ross, owner of the once white-hot Kitson chain of boutiques, isn’t shy about doing two things: dropping the names of celebrities who’ve shopped at his stores and expressing his dislike for the restrictions politicians have put in place. in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an interview on Monday, Ross was interrupted as he checked the names of Kardashian, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and searched California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for implementing “rules for you, not for me”.

For memory :

6:17 p.m. August 23, 2022

An earlier version of this article, including its title and caption, stated that the Kitson store was in Beverly Hills. It’s in the nearby Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles.

This article has been updated with crime statistics from LA, rather than Beverly Hills.

“There’s a customer coming in with a mask,” he said, “and I have to tell them they can’t come in with one.”

It’s the new reality at Kitson on Robertson Boulevard in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles, where Ross has banned face masks out of concern for the “safety of our staff and store assets,” according to a sign posted in a showcase.

The 58-year-old owner, who admits he uses political social media posts and store displays to generate controversy and publicity, said the mask ban was different.

The move, he insisted, was prompted by frustrated employees and fearful of face-covered thieves targeting the store and others in the neighborhood. The ban applies only to Robertson’s flagship store, located just two blocks from Beverly Hills. The store is one of five Kitson outlets, but Ross described it as “the department store where all the valuables are.”

“Masks have nothing to do with politics; it’s to protect the assets,” Ross said. “I protect my employees and our assets.”

That’s not to say Ross isn’t proud of the success he’s had with his divisive window displays, some of which have gone viral, bringing much-needed attention to his brand – but perhaps not as much as at present. early, when Kitson was a go-to for the shopping sprees of the famous, near-famous and addicted.

“I did the most famous Christmas windows,” Ross said, recalling a 2020 exhibit by Dr. Anthony Fauci and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who were criticized for going in a hair salon during the pandemic lockdown. Wearing red Santa hats, Pelosi, Fauci and others were labeled “Hypocrites of 2020” on posters. “The mainstream media didn’t want to talk about it, though, because I was dating Fauci,” he said.

Ross listed several recent thefts and burglaries that he says have occurred at his store and nearby businesses, including one in which someone threatened an employee with scissors and two Japanese tourists had luggage stolen from them. their car.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, Ross said, came about two weeks ago, when two women wearing masks, who he said had been banned from Kitson for shoplifting, were entering the store. When confronted, they shouted to stay away because of COVID-19.

“I was sick of people coming into this store, and we can’t get them from a queue,” he said. “They’re wearing bucket hats, hoodies and you can only see their eyes. You can’t tell it’s the right person.

“We live in Gotham City,” he continued, comparing the wealthy commercial area of ​​Beverly Grove in the city of Los Angeles to the fictional crime-filled city that drives Batman to become a vigilante. Crime, he said, “is at an all time high”.

Statistics from the city’s police department present a much less dire reality. According to the Wilshire Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, robberies in the area increased 24% from January 1 to August 13, compared to the same period last year. The total number of violent crimes in the region is comparable to previous years, with a marginal increase of 0.4% compared to the same period in 2021 and 0.6% compared to 2020. Burglaries are on the rise 9% since 2021 but down 31% compared to 2020.

When asked about the city’s crime rate, Ross said many incidents go unreported.

“People don’t want to report it because it scares them away from coming to your store,” he said.

Ross’ ban on face masks comes just weeks after Los Angeles County considered the possibility of implementing an indoor mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 infections.

But as the Public Health Department considered its decision, some cities anticipated the call and announced they would not enforce a warrant if one were issued.

Pasadena and Long Beach announced the same day that their health departments would not issue a mask mandate with the county. Beverly Hills, which does not have its own health department, then announced that the the city would not deploy resources to enforce a warrant.

Ultimately, the county did not issue a warrant as infection rates began to drop.

Ross applauded Beverly Hills’ decision, calling the mayor “badass” in a post on Kitson’s Facebook page.

Before his social media pages and windows were filled with political statements, Kitson shot to fame in the early 2000s alongside several celebrities, who were photographed walking out of the store carrying his blue bags.

“Celebrity culture, I may have started it in the 2000s,” Ross said.

Now, Kitson’s social media pages are largely filled with conservative-leaning posts criticizing vaccines, lockdowns and Democrats.

“Don’t let the door knock on you on the way out,” reads an article about Fauci’s decision to retire from government service at the end of the year. “Please take all your masks with you that you never wear.”

Others walk on the plot. The day after the FBI obtained a warrant and raided former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, the outlet posted a message: “Who do you think the FBI is colluding with? ”

Ross said the posts reflected his political leanings, although he maintains that he is neither a Democrat nor a Republican and as a Canadian he cannot vote.

His ban on face masks, however, is not an attempt to publicize the store or the “troll”, he said. He also doesn’t think it will have much of an impact, as most customers don’t wear masks anymore anyway.

“There were a few people coming in with masks, but the rest are criminals,” he said.

The posts, he said, help him raise his store’s profile to compete with big retailers like Nordstrom.

“Maybe we’re the small company with the big voice,” he said. “I tell people all the time, if you’re Swiss, people don’t care. They like people to take a stand.

Los Angeles Times

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