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A California County Shut Down an In-N-Out Burger Location For Failing to Enforce COVID-19 Protocols

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: October 29, 2021
UKIAH, CA - JUNE 02: A tall In-N-Out Burger sign can be seen from nearby Highway 101 as viewed on June 2, 2021, in Ukiah, California. A location in Contra Costa County has been closed down indefinitely after it was found to be in contravention of COVID-19 mandates. (Image: George Rose/Getty Images)

Contra Costa County in California has forced the closure of an In-N-Out Burger fast food restaurant for not following the vaccination mandate as outlined by the local authorities. The restaurant was neither demanding its customers to show proof of vaccination or asking for a negative COVID-19 test as required by the county. The location was asked to shut down indefinitely on Oct. 26.

“We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government. 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 Chief Legal and Business Officer Arnie Wensinger said in a statement. He added that the restaurant had “properly and clearly” posted signs which detailed the vaccination requirement for diners.

According to Contra Costa Environmental Health (CCEH), the food outlet had received four citations in recent weeks together with $1,750 in fines for violating COVID-19 health orders. The health department claims that they had received “repeated complaints” from the public. Two other In-N-Out restaurants in the region have also been fined and warned for not complying with vaccine checks.

Contra Costa County passed the vaccination requirement order on Sept. 22. It is applicable to businesses where people remove their face coverings to eat or drink, like restaurants. The order also applies to indoor areas where people tend to breathe heavily due to exercise like gyms and yoga studios. 

Citizens wishing to enter these establishments are required to show photo ID together with their vaccination record cards issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or a negative COVID-19 result from the previous three days.

“This order is necessary now to save lives, protect our overburdened healthcare system, and slow the pandemic enough to keep our schools open… 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,” Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Officer, said in a Sept. 14 statement.

When California Governor Gavin Newsom was asked about the In-N-Out situation, he praised the establishment as “one of our great, home-based businesses” but insisted that everyone needs to take local health orders “seriously.” The governor pointed out that In-N-Out isn’t the only business that has opposed the COVID-19 mandates.

“There have been thousands of examples like this, some get highlighted, some don’t. In this instance, there’s an East Bay chain where there’s a bit more friction, frustration. In San Francisco, there was a week ago,” Newsom said.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer of Florida, has written a letter to the president of In-N-Out, criticizing the way the company is being treated in California.

Patronis said that he was highly impressed by the restaurant’s courage to oppose the government vaccine mandate. He pointed out that the Governor of Florida had fined a business establishment for attempting to force employees to get vaccinated. He offered help in the event that In-N-Out decided to relocate to Florida.

“As a small business owner who grew up in a family-owned restaurant, I know how hard it is to make a profit on a good day, let alone when your own government is working to crush your business with overreaching mandates… As a member of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, the business development arm of the state, I’d be honored to introduce you to our team and help you find the perfect place to start a new In-N-Out story here in Florida,” Patronis said in the letter.