San Francisco shut down its In-N-Out for not checking patrons' vaccination status

20October 2021

An In-N-Out Burger sign, pictured in California in June 2010. City health officials briefly shut down the San Francisco location for not following COVID-19 protocols, though it has since reopened for outdoor dining and takeout.

Adam Lau/AP

Adam Lau/AP

Here’s a story with some meat: The San Francisco Department of Public Health briefly shut down the city’s only In-N-Out Burger location last week because it was not properly checking patrons’ vaccination documentation.

The city has required full proof of vaccination in order to enter public spaces, including bars and restaurants, since August. It began easing indoor mask requirements last Friday, but still requires patrons to wear masks inside restaurants except while actively eating or drinking.

Health officials temporarily shut down the fast-food franchise’s San Francisco burger joint last Thursday after learning staff members were not checking diners’ vaccination status, the San Francisco Department of Public Health told NPR over email.

It said that public health officials had informed In-N-Out several times about the proof-of-vaccination requirement, but that the restaurant did not comply.

City officials first visited the restaurant on Sept. 24 after receiving a non-emergency 311 complaint, and followed up again on Oct. 6 to find that it was still not following the law. Just over a week later, the public health department issued a notice of violation and closure requiring the establishment to “cease all operations on site immediately because of the threat it poses to public health.”

The department said it had also issued a notice of violation to the property owner, Texas-based Anchorage Holdings LP.

Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out’s chief legal and business officer, said in a statement provided to NPR that the restaurant had posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements but was not preventing the entry of customers who didn’t have the proper documentation.

He went a step further, adding that the company aims to make all customers feel welcome and finds it “unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe” to ask staff to “segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not.”

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

The restaurant has since “taken steps to comply” and reopened for takeout and outdoor dining only, public health officials said. They added that the restaurant can reopen indoor dining when it “shows an adequate process and procedure for complying with the health order and passes a health and safety check.”

Health officials said they had not heard of any plans from In-N-Out to check patrons’ vaccination status or open its indoor dining area as of Wednesday morning.

In other words, at least for now:

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