(Tyler Arnold, The Center Square) The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority raided a Fredericksburg restaurant in relation to COVID-19 rule violations, but the owner who is running for a state Senate office is using the raid as a fundraising opportunity.
“I’ve seen first-hand what it means to lay it all on the line – first in the United States Army and now as a small business owner fighting off self-serving bureaucrats who love strangling small businesses and punishing entrepreneurs,” read a fundraising email sent out by Gourmeltz owner and 27th Senate District candidate Matt Strickland.
“Please join my campaign by making your immediate and generous contribution…,” the email read. “I’m giving my all in the fight to save our Commonwealth, and I hope you’ll join me.”
On Nov. 15, ABC served Gourmeltz an order that suspended the restaurant’s beer and wine license and mixed beverage license for 90 days. The revocation came after a lengthy court battle in relation to the restaurant openly defying several COVID-19 rules imposed by former Gov. Ralph Northam in 2020 and 2021. The Circuit Court of Spotsylvania County ruled in favor of ABC and against Gourmeltz in all respects.
After being served the suspension, ABC alleges Gourmeltz continued to serve alcoholic beverages. On Friday, ABC raided the restaurant to execute a search warrant for records and information related to the possession and sale of alcoholic beverages without a license.
“Despite administrative proceedings and the final order of the Circuit Court of Spotsylvania County affirming Virginia ABC’s decision to suspend Gourmeltz’s wine/beer on and off premises and mixed beverage licenses, the establishment failed to comply with ABC’s Board Order and continued to serve beer, wine and mixed beverages to customers,” a news release from ABC stated.
A video posted by Strickland’s campaign appears to show Virginia State Police removing alcohol from the premises. In the video, Strickland confronted the officers and questioned their actions. When the officers said they were doing their job, the candidate said they were part of the problem.
In defiance of the 2021 COVID-19 regulations, Gourmeltz allowed patrons to sit at the bar, he did not require employees or customers to wear face coverings and he refused to enforce social distancing regulations, which all violated Northam’s orders at the time. Strickland claimed the rules were unconstitutional and ineffective.
The Center Square reached out to Strickland for comment, but did not receive a response.