In-N-Out’s vaccine battle with California

In-N-Out Burger, the iconic California restaurant, is increasingly at war with health officials over COVID-19 rules.

Earlier this month, San Francisco’s only In-N-Out had to be temporarily closed because it violated a local rule requiring proof of vaccination for indoor customers.

The restaurant is located on Fisherman’s Wharf and has only been open for al fresco dining ever since.

This week, Contra Costa Health Services confirmed an In-N-Out in Pleasant Hill was also forced to close after repeated violations of the county’s COVID-19 rules.

Officials said they gave the restaurant ample opportunities to abide by it, but it posed a public health hazard by “repeatedly” violating the county order.

This order, which has been in effect since September 22, requires restaurants and some other indoor establishments to verify that all customers 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have had a negative coronavirus test within the last 72 hours.

The topic

In-N-Out officials have backed out, arguing that asking private companies to enforce rules that require proof of vaccination is a government exaggeration.

Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer, said after the San Francisco shutdown:

“As a company, In-N-Out Burger strongly believes in the highest form of customer service and that means for us to serve all customers who visit us and to make all customers feel welcome,” he said. “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.”

Wensinger described the San Francisco mandate as unreasonable, invasive and unsafe for employees to divide “customers” into groups that can and cannot be served.

Public health officials note that the vast majority of businesses are following rules designed to keep guests safe and encourage vaccinations.

What’s next

The looming raid in Los Angeles could be an important test of the In-N-Out chain’s resistance to regulations requiring proof of vaccination.

The exact number of In-N-Out locations in LA wasn’t known, but there are at least 16, mostly in the San Fernando Valley.

LA’s ordinance, approved by the city council earlier this month, requires proof of vaccination to eat at restaurants or enter shopping malls, movie theaters, and other indoor spaces. The measure includes escalating penalties for companies that do not enforce them.

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