The In-N-Out restaurant in Pleasant Hill has now had its food-service permit revoked by the county, and at least two more East Bay locations may be next in line if the company continues openly defying local ordinances about checking for vaccines for indoor dining.
In-N-Out is gearing up for a larger fight, it seems, following the San Francisco Department of Public Health shutting down their Fisherman's Wharf location earlier this month. In the case of that location, the restaurant reopened for takeout only within a week, and the company seemed to back off in its protest so the location could reopen for business. But we'll see how far they take it as more of their locations face shutdowns across California.
We heard last week that the Pleasant Hill location of In-N-Out had also been fined by the county over the same issue as the SF location — refusing to ask diners wishing to sit indoors to show proof of vaccination. As KPIX reports, the Pleasant Hill restaurant was shut down by Contra Costa County as of Tuesday, and assessed a $1,000 fine on top of the previous fines, "for creating a public health hazard by repeatedly violating a county health order intended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission."
And locations elsewhere in the county, in Pinole and San Ramon, are working their way toward shutdowns as well, with the latter having received its second violation notice and first fine as of this week.
The Contra Costa closures may end up lasting longer than the SF one, depending on how long In-N-Out's appeals process takes. The county is only saying that the permit suspension will last "until the hazard is abated."
The company line on this matter, as In-N-Out Chief Legal & Business Officer Arnie Wensinger said in a statement, is "We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government" and "We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business." Wensinger added, "This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive."
Well, that "offensive" government action is also taking effect on Monday in Los Angeles, where In-N-Out has dozens of locations — though its not immediately clear how many of those are in the City of Los Angeles, proper, where the vaccine rule takes effect Nov. 1.
KPIX spoke to at least one Lafayette woman last week who agreed that this was overreach and who was buying food at the Pleasant Hill location to show her support.
And they talked to one man coming out of the restaurant who said, "I think they should be fined. I mean, it did feel uncomfortable with how many people are in there. It is packed in there. So in the future if I do come here, I think it will be [for] to-go [food]."
Wensinger and In-N-Out continue to cast this as some kind of constitutional issue, saying that employees will be forced to "bar" people from entry if they aren't vaccinated. But, in fact, you can still order takeout in a restaurant, masked, if you aren't vaccinated, you just can't sit down and eat there in most Bay Area counties right now. So are we really fighting about the unvaccinated's right to sit on a hard-plastic chair and enjoy their Double-Double alongside everyone else?
Does this corporate stance reflect the attitude of evangelical CEO Lynsi Snyder, who may or may not be vaccinated herself? Snyder rarely gives public comment or interviews, except to Christian publications. But she did make a public appearance on October 15 in Orange County, playing bass in the company band, which is called .48 Special, at a venue in Anaheim.
Let's just assume no one was wearing a mask.
Photo: Kevin Lanceplaine