In-N-Out Burger defies San Francisco COVID-19 vaccine mandate

In-N-Out Burger has reopened after being shut down last week over its refusal to enforce San Francisco’s vaccine mandate, telling the city that “we refuse to become the vaccination police.”

The San Francisco health department closed Thursday the hugely popular burger joint’s Fisherman’s Wharf location, the only one in the City by the Bay, over its failure to check the COVID-19 vaccination status of customers before allowing them entry, as the city requires.

The fast-food restaurant is back in business for takeout and drive-through orders, but indoor dining remains closed, according to KRON-TV.

In-N-Out chief legal and business officer Arnie Wensinger said that the location had “properly and clearly posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements,” but drew the line at monitoring customers.

“We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,” said Mr. Wensinger in a statement on KPIX-TV. “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.”

The statement continued: “We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business. This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s August order requires restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, theaters and other indoor business establishments to check for proof of vaccination before allowing patrons to enter.

“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,” said Ms. Breed in an Aug. 12 statement. “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.” 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health said that it “directly informed In-N-Out Burger representatives multiple times about the proof of vaccination requirement,” and visited the restaurant on Sept. 24 following a complaint, KPIX-TV reported.

“The outreach team provided information so the restaurant could comply with the law,” said the health-department statement. “Inspectors from the SFDPH’s Environmental Health division followed up on October 6 and found that In-N-Out Burger was still in violation of the health order.”

The California-based In-N-Out Burger, which has 358 locations, is owned by the Snyder family and known for its Bible verses printed on wrappers and on the bottom of its soft-drink cups.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters