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GOP lawmakers show support for DC bar closed for city vaccine, mask mandate violations

Muriel Bowser
Posted at 3:43 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 18:44:29-05

A Washington bar and restaurant has gained the attention of GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as well as the nation, as the owner has doubled down amid a fight with city health regulators which started over repeated vaccine and mask violations, according to the city.

The Big Board, located off the city's historic H Street and not far from the U.S. Capitol, previously had its liquor license suspended after city health officials accused the establishment of not properly enforcing the city's vaccine verification mandate for customers and mask mandate.

City health officials decided to close the entire restaurant this week, citing city code violations which they say "presents an imminent health hazard to the public," WUSA9 reported.

In a now-deleted message posted to Facebook by The Big Board on Wednesday, the restaurant wrote, "I just wanted to thank all of the patrons and employees who supported this place for ten years and especially over the pandemic. I see you and thank you."

The message went on to say, "I also want you to know that the middle finger that you regulars were given despite all of this, some of the staff were also given and we feel the same way you do. This isn't our place anymore."

The message turned dim with the poster writing, "This is and won't ever be the same place anymore and we all can move on. [sic] After all, this is now an "apolitical" bar. But, look at who's now associated with it."

On Tuesday night, Republican Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky was seen dining in the restaurant with a group showing support for the co-owner.

Earlier in the week, co-owner Eric Flannery pushed the local city row into the national spotlight making an appearance on Laura Ingram's show on Fox News.

In the segment, Flannery spoke of the city's mask mandate while appearing live on the show from his bar and said, "It doesn't really make any sense, and what I mean is with the mask mandate, if you're sitting right where I am, you know have to wear a mask you can be sitting eating and drinking, but if you're sitting right over here [gestures towards the bar] just on the other side of this bar, you're the bartender serving them, you have to wear your mask at all times. These bartenders and servers, they're not second-class citizens."

On Tuesday night, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was featured in a video by The Daily Signal, joined by Republican Rep. Thomas Massie while dining at The Big Board and showing support with others.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser responded to The Big Board in a press conference after the city's liquor board voted to suspend its license, the Washingtonian reported. In her statement, Mayor Bowser said, “I’d like the business to comply, and we don’t want to shut anybody down…We want to give people support, advice, supplies, help, whatever they need. But, we do need them to follow the regulations.”

Flannery said that the Mayor's order "needs to be challenged in D.C. Superior Court."

A GoFundMe page was set up with the text "fighting against vaccine mandates in Washington, D.C." and it has raised more than $20,000 to support the restaurant, WUSA9 reported.