‘It was more about control than health and safety,’ says restaurant owner VA defying COVID-19 restrictions winchester star

Matt Strickland, who gained national attention for defying Virginia’s pandemic-related restrictions at the Gourmeltz restaurant he owns in Fredericksburg, recently addressed the Frederick County-based Small Business Freedom Coalition.

“Our government was saying, ‘You have to do this, you have to do that,’ and we fought the government and won,” Strickland, a 39-year-old Army veteran, told the audience at the West Oaks Farm Market. street. “I’ve spent my whole life overseas fighting dictatorships in other countries. The last thing I’m going to do is come here to my country and allow a dictatorship to rule here.”

Strickland’s comments come after the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) reinstated Gourmeltz’s liquor license. He gained notoriety for ignoring COVID-19 restrictions implemented by former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, which ultimately resulted in an ABC raid of his restaurant in early December. His video of the raid went viral.

During the raid, Strickland livestreamed uniformed men entering the restaurant to take away bottles of liquor. As he panned the camera around the business, he told them, “What you are doing now is usurping the government. What you are doing now is supporting a tyrannical government.”

When officers told Strickland they were executing a search warrant, he replied, “So many people were in Germany doing their job for Hitler.”

The raid was the culmination of a saga that began in early 2021, when The Washington Post reported that the Rappahannock Area Health District began receiving complaints about Gormeltz not following restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) sent inspectors to investigate. VDH suspended his business license — the case against Strickland was later dropped — and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Strickland $70,000, he said.

“They came to me in three ways: the Department of Health, ABC, and OSHA,” Strickland said.

Litigation ensued. Strickland said he “defeated” the health department in court.

The ABC board also suspended Gourmeltz’s liquor license for violations, which included employees not wearing masks and not following social distancing guidelines.

After an appeal that spanned almost all of last year, the Spotsylvania Circuit Court ruled in favor of ABC. Strickland continued to serve liquor without a proper license, which led to the raid.

ABC reinstated Gormeltz’s liquor license on December 23, which he attributes to the video’s popularity and political pressure. He described the restoration as a “victory of the people”.

Strickland said the COVID-19 mandates were unconstitutional, and attributed his behavior largely to patriotism and faith.

He said the pandemic protocols were “more about containment than health and safety.”

Strickland said, “So I made the sole decision as a man to stand and fight for the Constitution.”

According to The Washington Post, Virginia averaged 17 daily COVID-19 deaths in late June of 2020, which was around the time Strickland began defying the restrictions.

He added that Strickland’s legal fees reached $200,000, draining much of his personal savings.

Not only was he critical of Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions, but he was also critical of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin claimed that Youngkin canceled the Fox News appearance to avoid drawing attention to the affair between Gourmeltz and Virginia. He said the Republican leadership in Virginia had “given him up to the wolves,” because he was “still being prosecuted for COVID mandates.”

“I was about to go on Fox News, actually, a few different shows, ‘Tucker Carlson’ included. But the governor there called and canceled me from those shows to suppress my story,” Strickland said. .

He described some conservative lawmakers as “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only), a term popularized by former President Donald Trump to describe Republicans whom he believed were liberal Had an inclination

Strickland is now seeking the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 27th District Senate seat in the November election.

Strickland said of his state Senate bid, “I want to crush that rhino that’s running against me. This is a fight God has told me to take.”

If elected, Strickland said he would have this message for his conservative counterparts in Richmond: “Vote with me, or be exposed as the Rino or Democrat that you really are.”

He added, “It’s not Democrats versus Republicans, folks. It’s evil versus good, unfortunately.”

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