San Francisco's In-N-Out outlet shut for not checking vax status, Internet divided

'We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government' says the chain, drawing mixed reactions on social media

                            San Francisco's In-N-Out outlet shut for not checking vax status, Internet divided
An In-N-Out Burger restaurant at Alhambra, California. (In-N-Out/Instagram)

San Francisco's sole In-N-out restaurant has been closed by the city's Department of Health for violating Covid-19 protocols. The news has become a major flashpoint between pro and anti-vaxxers, who are now debating the move by the city. While many have slammed In-N-Out for not following the protocols, others have backed the restaurant for "standing up" to the government. As for the chain itself, they've issued a strongly-worded statement indicating they have no interest in sticking to the law.

All over the US, businesses are slowly getting used to the federal government's vaccine mandate, often with devastating results. In mid-October, Allison Williams decided to walk away from her job with ESPN over the company's vaccine mandate. In late September, North Carolina-based healthcare system Novant Health fired 175 workers who refused to get jabbed. Other businesses though are fighting back like Flordia bar owner Joe Penovich, who refused to implement a mandate because "God told me not to."


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San Fransisco, like New York City, requires establishments to check if their patrols are vaxxed before entering. It's led to some pushback, but many businesses have accepted it's the only way to get people back to their establishments, given that cities are facing a major shortage of workers. In-N-Out though, firmly refused to comply with this requirement, saying "We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government." 



Protocols slammed as 'clear governmental overreach'

On October 14, the city shut the only In-N-Out in SF, located at Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf. The company said it was because the establishment was "not preventing the entry of customers who were not carrying proper vaccination documentation." Essentially, In-N-Out was not checking if their patrols were vaccinated or not. That's been the rule since August when restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor dining.

In a scathing statement, In-N-Out's Chief Legal and Business Officer Arnie Wensinger has slammed the city's requirements. "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," he said on October 19. Wensinger added, "It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant associates to segregate customers." He called the protocols "clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive."

The order to close wasn't a sudden one, the city confirmed. It reportedly issued several warnings to In-N-Out, after first visiting the restaurant due to a complaint on September 24. When they revisited on October 6, they found that the establishment was still in violation of protocols, leading to the order to shut down. However, it has now reopened, albeit only for outdoor dining and takeaways. Indoor dining is still not permitted. A health department official did not confirm when indoor dining would be permitted again. 


'We need more private businesses to step up'

Naturally, social media was widely divided over the news. Some backed In-N-Out, saying things like "Yay, In-N-Out! Thank you for having principles and refusing to do the state's dirty work. If you live near an In-N-Out, please pay them a visit! (Also, the burgers are delicious lol)." Another user said, "In-N-Out did the right thing. This is America." One person mocked, "Liberals big mad that In-N-Out won't discriminate." One person commented, "We need more private businesses to step up! Good work."





Others though were quick to slam In-N-Out. One person tweeted, "Seriously #InNOut? Do you refuse to enforce the basic Health Codes, too? You don't mind if someone shows up to work with Hepatitis?" Another said, "Bad take #InNOut Burger. You want indoor dining, check the easy to use digital vax cards provided by the state. Vaccinated customers do not want to dine with unvaccinated customers, unless they are immunocompromised & unable to to be vaxed. We prefer companies that respect that." One user called the statement "Very disappointing from In-n-Out."




In-N-Out appears to be the biggest opposition to what has otherwise been a smooth return to indoor dining in San Francisco. The city has also dropped some of its mask requirements, as Covid-19 cases have been coming down over the past few months. So far, New York City is the only other major city to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining. In November, a similar order will go into effect in Los Angeles, where In-N-Out has five locations inside the city limits. It's unclear if they will oppose the mandate there as well, or comply. 

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