Breaking News
More () »

Owner of Virginia restaurant who defied mask order is running for state senate

Matt Strickland of Gourmeltz told WUSA9 in June that he felt policies surrounding masks and social distancing were unconstitutional.

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — A Fredericksburg restaurant owner who was at the center of a mask controversy last year for refusing to follow the Commonwealth's COVID-19 rules says he's running for Virginia Senate.

Matt Strickland, the owner of Gourmeltz restaurant, was sued by the state in March in an attempt to shut down the restaurant for not enforcing the state's mask mandate on his workers and employees. At the time, Virginia was under a mandate requiring businesses to enforce mask-wearing. 

Strickland told WUSA9 in June that he found those mask and distancing orders unconstitutional. A judge ruled in favor of Gourmeltz, and his restaurant continued to run without a license for months before the Department of Health reinstated it.

Now, the military veteran says the experience compelled him to announce his run for the Virginia senate in the 27th District.

"One thing I’ve learned through all of this is that we have corrupt politicians representing us on both sides of the aisle," Strickland wrote in an email to WUSA9 reporter Bruce Leshan. "So, I’m now running for state senate."

The attorney general dropped all charges against him, and the restaurant continues to operate. There are currently no restrictions on masks and capacity limits in Virginia for those who are fully vaccinated. 

According to Strickland, although he was able to get his health license back following the court's ruling, the state still hasn't returned his restaurant's liquor license back.

"So, we’re still selling illegal alcohol technically," Strickland said in his email. 

Strickland said he will appear in circuit court on March 11 to begin his ABC hearing. 

To learn more about his campaign, click here. 

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