PLEASANT HILL (CBS SF) — The Pleasant Hill In-N-Out Burger location was shut down Tuesday by Contra Costa County officials after repeated violations of COVID health orders, according to authorities.
According to Contra Costa Environmental Health (CCEH), the commercial food permit for the In-N-Out Burger located on 570 Contra Costa Boulevard in Pleasant Hill was suspended on Tuesday “for creating a public health hazard by repeatedly violating a county health order intended to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”
The location had already been fined multiple times by Contra Costa health authorities for not verifying vaccine status for dine-in customers, as of last week, but operators have remained defiant and continued to violate county COVID protocols.
“Despite repeated notices of violation and fine, this business continued to permit indoor dining on site without verifying the COVID-19 vaccination status or recent, negative test result of customers,” a press release from Contra Costa health officials said.
Restaurants and some other indoor establishments are still required by county health order to verify the vaccine status of all customers who are 12 or older using their indoor spaces, officials said.
On Tuesday afternoon, plenty of hungry customers were stopping by the East Bay location or rolling into the drive-thru entrance, only to come away disappointed at the closure.
“I was just here for a very standard cheeseburger. That’s all I was hoping for,” said Corinne Guishard.
“I was trying to get some French fries for my wife and the doors are closed,” said Keith Garner.
Last week, the Contra Costa County Health Department told KPIX it had issued three citations to the restaurant – first a warning on October 5th, then a $250 fine on October 14, and a $500 fine on October 19.
The Pleasant Hill In-N-Out location has since received a fourth citation and an additional $1,000 fine for the same health order violation, before being shut down on Tuesday for its continued non-compliance that “posed an immediate health hazard to the public.”
In-N-Out locations in both Pinole and San Ramon remained open Tuesday, but also have been fined by county officials for violating the COVID health order.
People in Pleasant Hill told KPIX on Tuesday weighed in on the news of the closure with mixed reactions.
“I think it’s a good thing, you know? Playing by the rules if that’s the rules,” said Davis resident Michael Calabron. “Public safety to me is number one.”
“I think it’s a complicated issue. I think that it is important to follow the law, since that is what has been put in place. I also think it shouldn’t be resting entirely on the employees to be security guards if it’s not in their job description,” said Guishard.
“It’s just really hard, because I can understand both sides. But if it’s an order, you kinda have to abide by it. That’s what it means to be part of a society,” said Denise Garner.
Contra Costa County health officials said that In-N-Out restaurants in Pinole and San Ramon have also received notices of violation for this health order violation. On Monday, the San Ramon location received a $250 notice of fine.
The restaurant chain has had additional run-ins with Bay Area health officials. The In-N-Out Burger location at Fisherman’s Wharf was temporarily closed by San Francisco Department of Public Health officials on Oct. 14 for not checking customers for proof of vaccination.
In regards to that closure, the company’s Chief Legal and Business Officer Arnie Wensinger issued a statement that argued the location “properly and clearly posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements.”
However, Wensinger’s statement went on to disagree with the SFDPH requirement that restaurant employees “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.”
The statement said that the company believes in serving all restaurant customers and making all feel welcome, and said the company would not comply what it called the requirement to act as “vaccination police.”
“I think this is just crazy,” said Michelle Woolard last week, when she drove to the Pleasant Hill location from Lafayette to buy dinner for her family after hearing about what happened in San Francisco.
“I think it’s horrible and it’s government overreach. We are eating here tonight because we want to support In-n-Out,” she said.
Others said the restaurant should follow the health department guidelines.
“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 to go,” said Jeremy Moniz.
He also ate inside the restaurant last week and told KPIX 5 no one asked to see proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
Contra Costa County health officials said that In-N-Out may request an appeals hearing regarding the Pleasant Hill location’s permit suspension and any of the fines incurred. However, officials also noted the location must remain closed until the hazard is abated.
Andria Borba contributed to this story.