In-N-Out Burger, a popular fast food chain, has closed indoor dining at five locations in California’s Contra Costa County over a mandate requiring businesses to screen customers’ health information.
The Contra Costa County health department said Wednesday that In-N-Out had decided to close indoor dining at all of its restaurants across the county rather than enforce the health department’s COVID-19 orders, according to the San Francisco Gate. The county mandated in September that certain businesses must ensure customers 12 and older have received a COVID-19 vaccine or negative test for the virus before entering.
In-N-Out restaurants in the county will continue to serve customers on a takeout and drive-thru basis but will be shutting its indoor operations rather than comply with the county’s health order. The fast food chain has been a vocal opponent of the county’s and other similar mandates, receiving several fines and being forced to temporarily shutter two locations.
“This order is necessary now to save lives, protect our overburdened healthcare system, and slow the pandemic enough to keep our schools open,” Contra Costa County health officer Chris Farnitano said in a September statement announcing the new county health codes. “Reducing community transmission of the virus now is key to preventing future spikes in cases from overwhelming our county’s hospitals during the winter months.”
In-N-Out Burger’s Chief Legal and Business Officer Arnie Wensinger blasted a similar mandate after officials temporarily shut down the chain’s location in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco. San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued an order in August requiring businesses such as restaurants and gyms to screen customers for proof of vaccination before allowing entry.
”Our store properly and clearly posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements,” Wensinger said in a statement. “After closing our restaurant, local regulators informed us that our restaurant Associates must actively intervene by demanding proof of vaccination and photo identification from every Customer, then act as enforcement personnel by barring entry for any Customers without the proper documentation.”
“We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,” he continued, calling such mandates “unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe.” He accused San Francisco of attempting to “segregate customers” based on their vaccination status.
“We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business,” Wensinger said. “This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive.”
Breed, when announcing the order in August, claimed that vaccines are the only way “out of the pandemic.” She did not address other ways of defending against the virus, such as COVID-19 treatments or prior infection.
“We know that for our city to bounce back from the pandemic and thrive, we need to use the best method we have to fight COVID-19 and that’s vaccines,” Breed stated. “Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers, and this City. This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely.”