The COVID Culture War Hits Another In-N-Out Burger

Bay Area’s Peasant Hill location is cited for failing to check vaccination statuses of its patrons.
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Barely a week since San Francisco’s lone In-N-Out Burger had its indoor dining area temporarily closed for failing to check the vaccination statuses of its patrons—sparking the obligatory cultural debate—the chain’s outpost in nearby Pleasant Hill has met the same fate.

As KTLA reports, the Pleasant Hill location had already been fined four times totaling $1750 for the same violations before the Contra Costa Environmental Health Department suspended its food license and shut it down Tuesday.

Last time, the burgermeister’s home office was defiant, with Chief Legal Officer Arnie Wensinger stating, “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.”

And while that line played like a “Tom Sawyer”-level anthem for some conservatives, health officials in Pinole and San Ramon recently issued violations to In-N-Outs in those locations as well—for breaking the same rules—with San Ramon getting a $250 fine on Monday.

“The reason for the closure is that In-N-Out Associates were not actively demanding vaccine documentation and photo identification from each dine-in Customer before serving them,” Wensinger said of the latest shutdown.

“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.”

When the San Francisco store was closed, California Business Roundtable rep. Brooke Armour Spiegel explained that the group encourages staff and patrons to get vaccinated, but suggested it is perhaps unwise and unfair to burden restaurant employees—some of the lowest-paid and most exploited workers in the U.S.—with the job of law enforcement.

“In this case, a part-time high school student could be on the front lines of what is a very contentious and unfortunately violent issue in the nation, without any training or increased safety,” Spiegel said.

A similar vaccination rule takes effect in Los Angeles on November 4 and here, too, people who signed up to seat customers or flip burgers may be tasked with policing guests—a prospect made substantially grimmer by the City Council’s refusal to pass an amendment that would have criminalized harassing or interfering with any employee who attempts to enforce the mandate.

Sadly, New York City has already seen how that works out.