A second In-N-Out location in Bay Area has been targeted by health officials for breaking COVID-19 vaccine rules as the popular burger chain lashes out over becoming the California government’s ‘vaccination police.’
The West Coast fast food chain in Pleasant Hill, about 30 miles east of San Francisco, was fined on two occasions – for $250 and $500 – for not checking the vaccination status of indoor diners as required, Contra Costa County health officials said.
The fines come after a Fisherman’s Wharf location was temporarily shuttered over a similar refusal to check customers’ vaccination status. That branch, the only one in San Francisco, reopened this week but only for takeout and outdoor dining.
‘We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,’ said In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer Arnie Wensinger after the Fisherman’s Wharf location was fined and forced to close indoor dining.
Wensinger maintained that the burger joint had clearly communicated vaccine requirements to customers via signage, only refusing a direct instruction from local health officials for staff to actively perform spot checks on customers’ vaccine passes.
Pictured: the In-N-Out Burger in Pleasant Hill, California was hit with $250 and $500 fines for not checking the vaccination status of indoor diners, Contra Costa County health officials said
The Pleasant Hill location (pictured) received the second fine on Tuesday, according to health officials, however it’s indoor dining remained open
Meanwhile, In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer Arnie Wensinger lashed out at the crackdown, saying ‘we refuse to become the vaccination police’
Health inspectors had visited the Fisherman’s Wharf branch three times and saw violations of the health ordinance after they say they received a complaint through its 311 service line about the lack of vaccine verification there, reports CBS San Francisco.
‘Our records show that (Contra Costa Health Services) has issued a notice of violation on October 5, followed by a notice of fine on October 14 for $250, and a notice of fine on October 19 for $500,’ the department spokesperson, Karl Fischer, said in an email to the San Francisco location.
On Wednesday, anyone not ordering takeout was turned away with a sign reading, ‘in compliance with the city and county of San Francisco, indoor dining is unavailable at this time.’
Authorities said the burger chain had refused to bar clients who couldn’t show proof of vaccination to dine indoors, as required by a citywide mandate that came into effect on August 20.
Both In-N-Out locations were sanctioned after ignoring repeated warnings to enforce the vaccination rule, the department said, calling the mandate a matter of public health to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
Pictured: a sign on the Fisherman’s Wharf In-N-Out location on Wednesday, which reads ‘in compliance with the city and county of San Francisco, indoor dining is unavailable at this time’
A customer carries food while exiting an In-N-Out restaurant in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, Wednesday October 20, about a week after the city and county shut down inside dining
Health inspectors had visited the restaurant in question three times and saw violations of the health ordinance
Pictured: Fisherman’s Wharf location – the only In-N-Out location in San Francisco – was temporarily shut down last week for declining to enforce the state’s coronavirus restrictions
San Francisco’s health department temporarily shut down the In-N-Out restaurant as it refused to actively carry out spot checks on customers’ vaccine passport
The Fisherman’s Wharf location was warned on October 5 of the violation and then fined $250 on October 14, followed by another fine on October 19 for $500
‘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,’ Wensinger said after the first store was closed.
‘It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant Associates to segregate Customers into those who may be served and those who may not, whether based on the documentation they carry, or any other reason,’
In-N-Out operates 358 locations across the western United States.
The burger chain has proved a hit among citizens of the West Coast, with many of the restaurants experiencing wait times of several hours, leading to pop-up stores in London, as well as in Australia and sparking physical altercations among impatient customers.
The city defended its decision to shut the the Fisherman’s Wharf location.
‘Vaccines remain our best tool to fight this disease and come out of the pandemic,’ a Health Department spokesperson wrote.
‘Vaccination is particularly important in a public indoor setting where groups of people are gathering and removing their masks, factors that make it easier for the virus to spread.’
But Wensinger criticized the Health Department’s decision as ‘intrusive governmental overreach’.
‘We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business.
The popularity of the In-N-Out burger chain, which operates over 350 locations in the western United States, has led to huge queues, sparking fights among impatient customers
Customers waited 14 hours to order when In-N-Out Burger opened a new restaurant in Denver last November, with several fights breaking out in the queue
‘This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper and offensive.’
San Francisco’s ‘Safer Return Together Health Order’ came into effect in August and mandates that most businesses operating an indoor service such as restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues, must obtain proof of vaccination before allowing customers inside.
The city has some of the most stringent Covid laws in a state which is among the most restrictive in its public health policies.
California’s controversial governor Gavin Newsom announced at the start of the month that all elementary and high school students, in both public and private schools, will be required to get the shot once the vaccine is given final approval from the US government for different age groups.
The announcement sparked statewide demonstrations and walkouts among parents and teachers in a state where students and teachers alike are forced to either be vaccinated or submit to regular testing to attend classes, and must wear masks at all times both inside and outside on school grounds.