Virginia police executed a search and seizure warrant against a business who defied pandemic measures almost two years after the fact this past week.
The story made local headlines when NBC affiliate WUSA9 reported that the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) brought in police to execute the inspection on Dec. 2 after a lengthy legal battle finally gave the bureaucrats the handle they needed to crackdown.
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According to the article, local restaurant Gourmeltz and its owner Matt Strickland first had his health permit suspended in January of 2021 for failing to obey COVID-19 epidemic control mandates set by the Governor at the time requiring him to force employees to wear masks.
The article states that a judge ultimately ruled in Gourmeltz’s favor on that issue.
But in March, the ABC revoked Strickland’s permit to serve alcohol for the same reason. However, the levy was stayed pending appeal, which took until August to actually transpire.
Gourmeltz lost the ABC appeal, but the punitive decision was pushed off to allow the restaurant time to file and conduct another appeal through the local circuit court system, which granted Strickland an extra year of clemency in effect.
It wasn’t until August of 2022 that a hearing in Spotsylvania County occurred, which Gourmeltz lost via a letter of opinion issued in October and a final ruling in November.
In mid-November, Gourmeltz was issued with a final 90-day suspension of its alcohol serving permit, which was reducible to only 15 days if Strickland agreed to pay a $4,000 penalty and an almost $6,500 bill for “investigative costs.”
Strickland declined to pay the fees and also declined to abide by the suspension.
When police came to execute the warrant on Dec. 2, Strickland made a point of livestreaming the event to his Facebook feed, where he openly told officers, “I’m telling you to your face, right now, I’m selling alcohol.”
The business owner was fed up with government bureaucracy, especially in light of the months that had passed since the COVID-19 pseudo-pandemic had ended, questioning the agents, “You guys felt the need to bring all these police officers here just to do that this morning?”
“How do you feel about coming to shut a man’s business down for not following COVID mandates that are not constitutional?” Strickland asked.
When cops attempted to tell him they were only doing their jobs and following court orders, Strickland challenged their integrity, “Just ‘doing my job’ is not an excuse anymore…You’re shutting down a man’s livelihood for not following COVID mandates that didn’t do anything to prevent COVID.”
WUSA9 made a point of attempting to frame Strickland as a man who was “pressing the officers on their personal feelings about the situation and likened their actions to those who followed Hitler’s orders in Nazi Germany.”
In a followup video posted to his personal Facebook account, Strickland, who is running for Virginia State Senate, said, “I realized early on that these COVID mandates were more about control than they were about our health and safety, and that’s just by using common sense.”
“I spent a lot of my adult life overseas fighting against dictatorships. And the last thing I was going to do was come home to my country and let a dictatorship rule right here.”
“So I did the only thing that I knew how to do, which was fight back, and not comply.”
WUSA9 was forced to admit that Strickland had the support of several local politicians, but decided to contextualize the point under the banner of how the “story struck a chord in conservative circles.”
State Senator Amanda Chesterfield, a Republican, was quoted by the outlet as having asked on Facebook, “Why are we still punishing businesses who chose not to comply with unconstitutional mandates issued by the prior administration?”
The original battle between Strickland and the state occurred under previous Democrat Governor Ralph Northam, who was succeeded by Republican Glenn Youngkin in January of 2021.
“This case should be dismissed along with every other business that chose not to follow unconstitutional Covid mandates. Virginia businesses need relief,” Chesterfield added.
Strickland was paraphrased by NBC as admitting “he lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of alcohol” in the raid.