Apparently In-N-Out CEO Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson — the evangelical Christian heir to the company founded by her grandparents — had a phone call with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis because In-N-Out has become a hero of the anti-vaxx right.
In-N-Out's futile fight with California public-health agencies over vaccine mandates for indoor dining has of course attracted much praise from Fox News and the right wing. And while Republican voters across the country continue to die in far greater numbers from COVID because they've been tragically misinformed about the dangers of the disease and the efficacy of vaccines, cynical politicians like Ron DeSantis continue to pin their political futures on anti-vaccine-mandate fights because they have no moral compass.
As Orlando's WKMG first reported, DeSantis's press secretary proudly announced Tuesday that In-N-Out "could expand to Florida" in the future after a "productive" phone call Monday between the governor and Snyder-Ellingson.
DeSantis was one of a number of Republican governors who were quick establish laws barring vaccine mandates and vaccine passports — something he did at a time when Florida's COVID case numbers were skyrocketing and the hospital situation looked dire.
Now DeSantis is trying to score more political points with the vaccine-ignorant by courting In-N-Out and inserting himself into the story about the chain's fight with several California cities.
As SFist previously reported, the only San Francisco location of In-N-Out was forcibly shuttered by the San Francisco health department after it was found to be in violation of the city's mandate that vaccine cards be checked for all indoor dining. The restaurant quickly reopened for takeout only, but this scenario repeated itself a week later in Contra Costa County, with the company digging in its heels and issuing statements about how it wanted nothing to do with being the "vaccine police" for customers.
This is reflective of Snyder-Ellingson's politics, of course, and for all we know she hasn't been vaccinated herself.
"Vaccination should be a personal choice to protect oneself from serious illness, not a mandatory condition of participating in society," said DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw in a statement to WKMG. "There is no reason for a fast food restaurant to be forced to require proof of vaccination from customers."
Ms. Snyder-Ellingson, who has been solely in charge of In-N-Out since 2017 and has been the company's president since 2010, apparently explained to DeSantis that the only reason the company had expanded east of Texas was because its suppliers were all on the West Coast.
"Of course, Florida also has some of the highest quality farms and cattle ranches in the country," Pushaw said, "and the governor discussed this with the president of In-n-Out." Pushaw explained that DeSantis wanted to help In-N-Out identify some local suppliers so that it could soon expand to Florida.
Pushaw added that DeSantis "would welcome this great company to Florida, the best state to do business, where freedom has a home."
Update: In-N-Out's chief legal and business officer Arnie Wensinger issued a statement Wednesday tamping down speculation, which had ballooned to include the idea that In-N-Out might even move its headquarters out of California to Florida. "The phone call was at the request of Gov. DeSantis and the primary purpose was to establish a business relationship," Wensinger said. "During that call, Gov. DeSantis graciously invited In-N-Out Burger to do business in the state of Florida. While we are thankful for the gracious invitation, In-N-Out Burger has no plans or intention to expand operations or move its corporate headquarters to Florida."
Next up in In-N-Out's California skirmishes will likely be a showdown in Los Angeles, where a vaccine mandate for indoor dining took effect on November 1. As CBS Los Angeles reports, no In-N-Out restaurants they visited in LA were asking for proof of vaccination this week — but the battle has not come to a head yet because restaurants have been given a 30-day grace period in which to comply with the law, so fines and shutdowns won't begin until after November 30.
In-N-Out's five Contra Costa County restaurants have all reopened for takeout and drive-thru only, which is the company's compromise because it refuses to check customers' vaccination status.
Ron DeSantis photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images