Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) performed at Big Board, a bar in the H Street neighborhood of Washington DC after the city revoked its liquor license and later closed it for refusing to wear a mask and the COVID-19 - enforce vaccine. Mandate Paul and his staff visited the restaurant Tuesday night, just after D.C. The health department will post a notice of closure at the front door.
"I'm proud of the owner for not showing up," Paul said.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was also present. Both thanked owner Eric Flannery for protesting the idea that the government could force waiters to check customers' medical records.
"I'm just an old bar owner," Flannery said, rattling off the names of his regulars. "I've been here for ten years and I love everyone who comes."
The Big Board has followed all of the city's COVID-19 requirements since its inception, but at this point in the pandemic, the mandates are a violation of his restaurant's welcoming spirit, Flannery said. He was particularly passionate about enabling his employees to go without masks.
"My servants are not small people," he said. "They don't need to be masked. They don't spread disease."
If checking shot cards was that important, the city could send agents, he said.
"I don't have people for that," he said. "I just know that I'm doing the right thing and I want this place to be open."
The Big Board is far from the only DC establishment refusing to follow the city's mask and vaccination rules, but it's the first to vocally do so. Flannery made his position clear on Twitter and reiterated it in a recent appearance on Fox News that drew government ire. (Disclosure: I donated to Big Board's GoFundMe.)
D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverages Inspectorate issued 50 verbal warnings to various restaurants whose staff did not cover up at all times. Of course, patrons do not wear masks when eating and drinking. Whether intentional or not, such requirements create a second class of service personnel who must follow stricter rules than other people, although there is no scientific support for the idea that one group is more susceptible to disease than another.
Both Paul and Massie told Reason that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser's enforcement of the restraining orders was unlawful.
"Congress allowed you to make these rules and you've proved inadequate," Massie said.
When asked what message he had for Bowser, Paul said she would be charged.
"We have a bill in the House and Senate to remove the power to enforce these mandates," Paul said.
The Big Board served burgers, fries, and water (unfortunately non-alcoholic given the liquor license suspension) to lawmakers and their staff.