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OPINION

Rogue Virginia ABC Sends Police to Enforce COVID Lockdown

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Jeannie Nuss

Virginia has a famous Republican Governor, Glenn Youngkin, who has made his opposition to arbitrary COVID-19 mandates clear.  But his predecessor, Democrat Governor Ralph Northam, although out of office for ten months, apparently still calls the shots at the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board.  He does so through board members he appointed.  Indeed, every one of them, including Board Chair Maria J. K. Everett and Board CEO Travis Hill, are rogue agents bent on enforcing Northam’s infamous Executive Order 72 even after it was withdrawn in May of 2021. 

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For the current members of the Virginia ABC Board, elections appear to be irrelevant.  So long as the Board members have the power to contradict one of Governor Youngkin’s key policy positions, they appear intent on doing so.  And so it is that in all their fulsome Democrat glory, they authorized a policeraid the early morning of December 2 against an honest, hard-working veteran who owns one of Fredericksburg, Virginia’s most popular restaurants, Gourmeltz.  That owner, Matt Strickland, is a prominent Republican, a popular prospective candidate for the Virginia State Senate, and a party opponent of the Board members.  

On the morning of December 2, a veritable platoon of armed Virginia State troopers, armed local police, and armed special agents from the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority descended on Gourmeltz.  They served Strickland with a warrant and then proceeded to confiscate all alcohol on the premises.  Matt videotaped the raid, protesting throughout about the injustice and about the excessive police presence.  You can view the raid here.  The police also copied all of the restaurant’s hard drives to obtain customer lists, suggesting further enforcement action may be in the offing.  

The police were enforcing a Court order that itself enforces the defunct Ralph Northam Executive Order, EO 72 at the behest of the ABC Board.  That EO was issued by Northam on December 10, 2020, and was effectively withdrawn the end of May 2021 while Northam was still in office.  Despite the fact that EO 72 is defunct, the Democrat controlled ABC Board wants to enforce it anyway.

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Matt Strickland gained national attention and became anathema to the Northam administration and the Democrats on the ABC Board when he refused to abide by EO 72.  EO 72 imposed a number of scientifically absurd, wholly arbitrary and capricious, and unconstitutional restraints on individual liberty--entirely by executive order without a vote of the Virginia legislature.  Strickland, a combat veteran who risked his life for American liberty, is not one to give it up without a fight.

The EO is a rank violation of constitutional rights.  It violated Virginians’ right to travel, violated their freedom of association, and violated their individual liberty and personal autonomy.  Under it, no Virginian could leave his or her home between the hours of 12AM and 5AM.  That gross restriction on individual liberty apparently stems from the scientifically ineptand counterintuitive notion that COVID-19 spreads best when people are outside in the early morning.  

Of course, we all know--and scientists knew well in 2020 when the EO issued--that COVID spreads best indoors, not outdoors; indeed, it spreads almost not at all outdoors.  The order further prohibited food and beverage establishments, like Gourmeltz, from serving alcohol after 10PM (but not before), as if COVID-19 has bewitching hours of operation.  In further idiocy, the EO prohibited restaurants from serving food between 12AM and 5AM but not before or after.  That command is likewise wholly irrational, apparently assuming people who eat or drink are more apt to spread the virus between 12AM and 5AM.  

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But in this same EO 72, that very assumption is contradicted.  The EO required everyone 5 or older in the restaurant to wear masks, except those who eat or drank.  There is no scientific evidence that the COVID-19 virus spreads more when someone is breathing rather than when they are also eating or drinking.  The EO also exempt from masking those who were playing a musical instrument or found breathing difficult under the mask. 

Nevertheless, despite the ineptitude and profound idiocy of Ralph Northam’s EO 72, Youngkin’s opposition to COVID-19 mandates, and, most importantly, despite the fact that EO 72 was withdrawn in May of 2021, the rogue ABC Board has resurrected it to crush a food establishment owned by a prominent Republican.  

I am one of Matt Strickland and Gourmeltz’s new attorneys.  I have sent Governor Youngkin and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares letters asking them to declare the enforcement action unlawful and to intercede to prevent this abuse of power.  

The police raid on Gourmeltz is a direct assault on Governor Youngkin’s commitment to protect Virginian’s freedom of choice and end enforcement of arbitrary government mandates, an assault by one of his own executive agencies.  Governor Youngkin has it within his power to ensure that an honest, hard-working veteran who owns a very popular restaurant will not be run out of business by a rogue ABC Boardcontrolled by his Democrat opponents.  The prior Governor appointed this Board, the present Governor should replace them.

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