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Florida woos In-N-Out after California branches shut down over vaccine mandate dispute

(The Center Square) – Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to lure In-N-Out Burger to Florida after the fast-food chain was forced to close several of its California locations for not complying with vaccine mandates.

“As you may have heard, In-N-Out has closed a couple of locations in California due to vaccine passport requirements. This is what prompted the discussion about opening locations in Florida,” DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw told ClickOrlando, adding that DeSantis had a “productive conversation” with In-N-Out’s CEO, Lynsi Snyder-Ellington.

Pushaw said that In-N-Out would initially have difficulty moving to Florida because its suppliers were located on the West Coast.

“Of course, Florida also has some of the highest quality farms and cattle ranches in the country, and the governor discussed this with the president of In-N-Out. If they can identify suppliers for all their ingredients here, which we believe is possible, In-n-Out could expand to Florida,” Pushaw said.

Snyder-Ellington hasn’t yet issued a public statement about potentially leaving California.

San Francisco County, Contra Costa County and the city of Berkeley health departments require restaurants to screen customers in order to allow them to dine in by either showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test or of COVID vaccination status. The popular burger joint refused to comply with the screening mandate.

Its chief legal and business officer, Arnie Wensinger, said In-N-Out’s policy was to “properly and clearly” post signs outlining the state’s vaccine mandate for indoor diners. But it was not going to act as “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,” Wensinger said.

Contra County’s order “is necessary now to save lives, protect our overburdened healthcare system, and slow the pandemic enough to keep our schools open,” its chief health officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano, said. “Reducing community transmission of the virus now is key to preventing future spikes in cases from overwhelming our county’s hospitals during the winter months.”

The county mandate also requires staff who work indoors to show proof of full vaccination or test weekly for COVID-19, effective Nov. 1.

Before DeSantis’ conversation with Snyder-Ellington, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sent a letter inviting her to consider moving operations to Florida. He said he was writing as a small business owner, not just as Florida’s CFO.

“I know how hard it is to turn a profit and make payroll on a good day, let alone when your own government is working to crush your business with absurd mandates,” he wrote. “Once I heard the news of your shutdown for refusing to act as ‘vaccine police,’ I knew I had to reach out immediately.”

He added that he’s pro-vaccine and anti-mandate and that DeSantis outlawed vaccine passports and mandates in Florida.

Compared to California, which is continuing to experience an exodus of businesses and residents, Florida is a top destination for residents leaving blue states.

California has one of the highest business taxes and personal income taxes in the nation, while Florida’s business climate “is perfect, with no personal income tax, low corporate taxes, an educated workforce and fantastic quality of life,” Patronis said. “We won’t chase you out of the state like California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales did to Elon Musk when she launched vulgarities at him on Twitter. How did that work out? He immediately moved Tesla headquarters to Texas.”

Last year, Musk sued Alameda County, said he was considering leaving the state, and criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom for locking down California. Then, Assemblywoman Gonzales tweeted profanities about him, prompting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to invite him to move to Texas.

By July 2020, Tesla announced it was building a new Cybertruck Gigafactory outside of Austin, and by the following spring, Musk announced Tesla and his other company, SpaceX, also located in Texas, were both hiring. By October 2021, Tesla announced it was moving its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas.

The list of companies leaving California continues, citing higher tax burdens and cost of living as their reason for doing so. In January 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that California had for the first time in its history recorded a population decline.

According to the California Policy Center’s “California Book of Exoduses,” a handful of California companies are leaving every month, mostly for Texas.

After five In-N-Out locations closed, California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, asked Californians, “Five more In-N-Out locations have been shut down. Don’t you feel so much safer?”

Kiley has sued Newsom over the ongoing state of emergency and ran for governor during the recall election. Kiley continues to call for an end to the lockdowns, vaccine mandates and mask mandates, and is considering a run for Congress.

Meanwhile, Patronis offered to help Snyder relocate her headquarters to Florida. Snyder has not yet publicly taken him up on his offer.

In-N-Out’s locations are primarily in the western and southwestern states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

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