The only San Francisco location of wildly popular California-based fast food chain In-N-Out Burger was temporarily shut down and remains closed for indoor dining after the SF Department of Public Health found the restaurant was not properly enforcing the city’s vaccination mandate for indoor dining, KRON4 reported first. The city shut down the restaurant at 333 Jefferson Street on Thursday, October 14, after learning staff weren’t checking diners’ proof of vaccination or preventing customers without proof of vaccination from entering.
The restaurant has since resumed takeout and outdoor dining, but the company seems to be digging its heels on the vaccination mandate: In a statement provided to Eater SF, In-N-Out Chief Legal & Business Officer Arnie Wensinger says the company believes requiring its staff to enforce a vaccination mandate constitutes government “overreach” and is refusing to do so. “We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business,” Wensinger’s statement reads. “This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive.”
In an email to Eater SF the San Francisco Department of Public Health says it’s been trying to get In-N-Out to adhere to the city’s vaccination order for weeks. The city’s Joint Information Center Outreach Team first visited the restaurant on September 24 after receiving a complaint to the 311 non-emergency service line. Inspectors from the Environmental Health division who followed up on October 6, found the restaurant was still in violation of the health order and issued a Notice to Comply. The department finally issued a Notice of Closure on October 14, at which point the restaurant was “instructed to cease all operations on site immediately because of the threat it poses to public health,” according to the Department of Public Health. The owner of the property, Anchorage Holdings LP, which is based in Addison, Texas, was also issued a Notice of Violation.
The company says it has “properly and clearly posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements.” But In-N-Out also admits employees were not checking customers’ vaccinations cards and IDs, nor were they preventing customers who are not able to prove they’ve been vaccinated from entering the restaurant, which the health department told the company that staff must do. “As a Company, In-N-Out Burger strongly believes in the highest form of customer service and to us that means serving all Customers who visit us and making all Customers feel welcome,” the statement continues. “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 August, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a vaccination mandate for indoor dining, among other activities. The city was only the second in the country to require proof of vaccination for diners, though many Bay Area bars and restaurants had already begun to require proof of vaccination before the city directive went into effect. And while the mask mandate lifted in some indoor spaces — for example, gyms and offices — earlier this month, masks remain a requirement while not eating and drinking at San Francisco restaurants and bars.