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In-N-Out fined by Bay Area county for violating vaccine verification guidelines

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An In-N-Out location in Contra Costa County, California, is being fined by the county for failing to check vaccine cards. This is not the first time the chain has gotten in trouble for violating COVID-19 mandates in the state.

Last month, Contra Costa County joined San Francisco, Berkeley and other communities across the U.S. to require restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses to verify visitors' vaccine status

One In-N-Out location in Pleasant Hill has been failing to do so. The location has received citations, and now Contra Costa County is taking further action, CBS San Francisco reports. 

The county's environmental health division said it had received repeated complaints from residents about workers at the Pleasant Hill location not verifying vaccine cards, a spokesperson told CBS San Francisco. 

"Our records show that [Contra Costa Health Services] has issued a notice of violation on Oct. 5, followed by a notice of fine on Oct. 14 for $250, and a notice of fine on Oct. 19 for $500," the department spokesperson, Karl Fischer, said in an email to the station.

Fisher said health inspectors visited the restaurant three times and saw violations of the health ordinance.

An In-N-Out location at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco was also in hot water for violating the vaccine card requirements. That location was closed temporarily last week. The city's public health department said they received a complaint to its 311 service line about the lack of vaccine verification there.

Despite repeated warnings, the restaurant didn't comply, prompting the closure order, the department said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

"Vaccines remain our best tool to fight this disease and come out of the pandemic," the public hearth department said in the email. "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."

In-N-Out, a regional chain and a West Coast staple, did not back down, saying in a statement to CBS News they "refuse to become the vaccination police for any government."

"It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant associates to segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not, whether based on the documentation they carry, or any other reason," the statement from Arnie Wensinger, the chain's chief legal and business officer, reads.

That location has since reopened, but without indoor dining.

Visitors at the Fisherman's Wharf on Tuesday spoke to CBS San Francisco about the violation. "Especially with how many tourists they're seeing it's pretty standard when you're visiting San Francisco you hear – those are the policies everywhere," said Stephen McCarter of San Francisco. "I think everybody has to do the same thing to take care of each other."

"They are a business, and they should just follow the government guidelines, follow what's safest for the people," Napa resident Jesse Leingang said. 

"I kind of agree with In-N-Out and I kind of agree with the city – it's to keep everyone safe," said Daisy Hernandez of Vacaville, adding she could see both sides of the argument.

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