Breaking News
More () »

Fredericksburg restaurant that defied mask orders gets business license back

The owner of Gourmeltz refused to follow Virginia's mask mandate back in March.

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — A Virginia restaurant that caused a stir back in March when the owner refused to follow the Commonwealth's COVID-19 rules will resume business as usual now that restrictions on masks and capacity limits have been lifted for those who are fully vaccinated.

Gourmeltz lost its health permit in February, and in March, the Virginia Attorney General's office sued the restaurant's owner, Matt Strickland, in an attempt to close the restaurant for not following health guidelines on social distancing and masks put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, and operating without a license. 

Strickland said he found those mask and distancing orders unconstitutional.

"I'm not afraid of the state, I'm not afraid of the federal government," Strickland said back in March. "I spent most of my adult life fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have no problem coming home and fighting here in Virginia."

A judge ruled in favor of Gourmeltz in the case.

"What was unreasonable about this case was the fact that the government claimed without any evidence whatsoever that [Gourmeltz] staying open posed a danger to the community," Strickland's attorney Bob Barr said. "There was not a single case of COVID that was traced back to his restaurant during the time that he remained open." 

RELATED: Virginia judge refuses to issue preliminary injunction against Gourmeltz restaurant

With more people getting vaccinated against the virus, Gov. Ralph Northam lifted Virginia's mask mandate and other restrictions before the Memorial Day holiday. 

RELATED: Virginia lifts mask mandate; COVID-19 restrictions to end in time for Memorial Day Weekend

The restaurant has operated without a license since February in Fredericksburg. According to Barr, the Attorney General's office has dropped all charges against him and the Department of Health has reinstituted Strickland's license. 

"I truly believe that the attorney general and the governor of Virginia realized that they were taking on a fight they couldn't win ... and they realized they can't win against the people," Strickland said. "When we stand together there's nothing that can beat the American people."

WUSA9 has reached out to the state health department and the attorney general, but so far we have not received any response. 

A letter to Strickland from the health department warns that if there are problems that constitute a substantial and imminent threat to public health, the department could immediately suspend it again.

Strickland had one final message for any potential customers who might be turned off by his stance.

"If somebody stands against affording the community their constitutional rights, and their rights as an American," he started, "then I don't want them here at Gourmeltz anyway."

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out