In-N-Out Burger blasted the city of San Francisco's proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements after the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) closed one of the popular California burger joint's locations for serving customers who were not carrying the proper papers.
"On Thursday, October 14, the San Francisco Department of Public Health closed our restaurant at 333 Jefferson Street because In-N-Out Burger Associates (employees) were not preventing the entry of Customers who were not carrying proper vaccination documentation," In-N-Out Burger's chief legal and business officer, Arnie Wensinger, said in a statement.
"Our store properly and clearly posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements," Wensinger said. "After closing our restaurant, local regulators informed us that our restaurant Associates must actively intervene by demanding proof of vaccination and photo identification from every Customer, then act as enforcement personnel by barring entry for any Customers without the proper documentation."
"We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government," Wensinger declared, slamming the San Francisco Department of Health's requirements as "unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe" and accusing the city of asking restaurants to "segregate Customers" based on vaccine documentation.
Wensinger's statement was first reported by The HighWire.
SFDPH said in a statement that the notices of violation and closure to In-N-Out Burger at 333 Jefferson Street were issued on Oct. 14 for noncompliance with the Safer Return Together Health Order. The business was instructed to cease all operations on the site "because of the threat it poses to public health." Since then, the restaurant has taken steps to comply with the city's proof of vaccination requirements and has resumed operations for outdoor dining and take-out only.
"Vaccines remain our best tool to fight this disease and come out of the pandemic. Vaccination is particularly important in a public indoor setting where groups of people are gathering and removing their masks, factors that make it easier for the virus to spread. That is why San Francisco requires proof of vaccination for indoor dining," SFDPH said.
In August, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city would require businesses in "high-contact indoor sectors," including bars, restaurants, clubs, and gyms to obtain proof of COVID-19 vaccination from patrons and employees before servicing them. The health order was implemented to "protect against the continued spread of COVID-19, particularly among the unvaccinated," according to a statement from the mayor's office.
"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. This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely," Breed said at the time.
San Francisco was among the first major U.S. cities to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor restaurants and other businesses. The city also implemented a vaccine mandate for workers at these places of business, which went into effect on Oct. 13.
In his statement, Wensinger accused San Francisco of forcing businesses "to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business."
"This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive."
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 10/20/2021 at 10:18 a.m. ET to include comment from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.