In-N-Out Burger closes all of its Contra Costa County indoor dining rooms over local vaccine mandates

An In-N-Out Burger sign
Cars line up in the drive-through at an In-N-Out restaurant on Thursday in Pleasant Hill. County health officials briefly shut down the location after the popular burger chain ignored repeated warnings to check the vaccination cards of customers who wanted to dine indoors.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

In-N-Out Burger has closed all five of its dining rooms in Contra Costa County over the restaurant chain’s refusal to comply with local health mandates requiring patrons to show proof of their vaccination status.

The county’s vaccine mandate requires employees to check customers’ vaccination status before they can be seated at an indoor dining room. The burger chain says it will sidestep the issue and stop serving patrons indoors at five county restaurants and only serve food for takeout and at the drive-through window.

“As a Company, In-N-Out Burger strongly believes in the highest form of customer service and to us that means serving all Customers who visit us and making all Customers feel welcome,” Arnie Wensinger, the chain’s chief legal and business officer, said in a statement. “We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.”

The Irvine-based burger chain notified the local health department of its decision earlier this week. The story was first reported by SF Gate.

Contra Costa County Health Services did not immediately respond for comment on the restaurant’s decision.


The Contra Costa County Health Department briefly closed an In-N-Out restaurant on Oct. 26 in the city of Pleasant Hill for “not actively demanding vaccine documentation or testing documentation and photo identification” from customers, according to the burger chain. The county health department confirmed the restaurant’s permit was suspended earlier this week.

In a statement, the county health agency said they were recently notified of In-N-Out’s decision, even though only one of its restaurants had its permit suspended by the agency.

“We thank In-N-Out Burger for coming up with a solution that helps keep our community safe,” said the statement.

Four In-N-Out locations in Contra Costa County have received warnings for violating the vaccination health order, but so have other restaurants including Fuddruckers and Huckleberry’s Breakfast & Lunch in Concord and MJ’s Downtown Cafe in Brentwood. In total, In-N-Out’s Contra Costa County locations have been fined $2,250 in violation of the vaccination health order, according to the health agency.

The Pleasant Hill location — along with dining rooms in San Ramon, Brentwood, Pittsburg and Pinole — is now closed to indoor dining.

Supporters for the burger chain protested outside the Pleasant Hill location on Thursday night, holding signs decrying the county’s vaccine mandates, according to KPIX in the Bay Area.

Cars continue to lineup down the street to get into the In-N-Out drive-through at the Pleasant Hill location, says Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, who represents the district.

The reaction to the county’s vaccine mandate has been overblown, Mitchoff said Friday.

“In-N-Out is the only business in my district that has made such a big issue about this mandate,” Mitchoff said. “I don’t agree with how they’re framing it. This is not a problem for anyone else.”

Over the last year, Contra Costa County health officials and other government employees have received death threats for mandating COVID-19 rules to slow the spread of the virus, Mitchoff said.

While she understands that some people are feeling anxious about the COVID-19 rules nearly 2 years into the pandemic, she does not agree with the mentality that not getting vaccinated is personal choice carried by one person.

“This is no longer about the individual; it’s about society,” Mitchoff said. “OK, those people are angry. They’re entitled to their opinion, but I was elected to protect the health and safety of this community. We’re going to follow the lead set by the health officer.”

The local COVID-19 rule went into effect on Sept. 22 and requires customers 12 and older to show proof of their vaccination status to enter certain indoor areas. That includes restaurants, gyms and other businesses “where there is an elevated risk of the virus spreading,” according to the health department.

Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, along with the city of Berkeley, all have similar mandates that require proof of vaccination for indoor dining. Earlier this month, the San Francisco Department of Public Health briefly closed the city’s only In-N-Out, at Fisherman’s Wharf, for violating the local COVID-19 rules. That location has since opened for outdoor dining only.