The Big Board, a Washington, D.C.-based restaurant that was shut down for repeatedly violating the district's vaccines and mask mandates over the last two years, brought a civil lawsuit against the D.C. Department of Health, arguing the agency overstepped its authority for restricting businesses, according to a report from the Washington Examiner.
The specialty burger shop claims the mask and vaccine restrictions stripped the restaurant of a fair opportunity to serve patrons, and thus violated certain constitutional rights.
Also, according to the lawsuit, the district eatery alleges the city government had trouble justifying the restrictions, due to a lack of "evidence of actual viral transmission" — even after the city's vaccine mandate had expired.
In January, The Big Board was reportedly forced to shut its doors after Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser enacted an emergency order, obligating businesses and employees to verify patrons' vaccination statuses before being allowed to enter the restaurant.
According to the Examiner, The Big Board was the "first and only" establishment in the D.C. metro area to lose its liquor license, or close its doors for violating the mayor's mandates. Before that, the restaurant received a number of verbal and written warnings and fines for not requiring patrons to prove their vaccination status, before entering.
A week later, the local DOH reportedly issued a closure notice — citing a number of code violations that weren't related to COVID-19 mandates.
Bowser later announced the vaccine mandate would be lifted on Feb. 15, but the Big Board was allegedly forced to remain closed until April.
"The Mayor's inconsistent orders on these issues demonstrate the lack of any realistic public health threat from the alleged violations at the Big Board," according to the lawsuit. "Upon information and belief, there was no actual evidence or legal authority to support the idea that basic restaurant and food safety requirements necessitated proof of vaccination of a generally transmissible disease."
The lawsuit also questions Washington, D.C.'s proper usage of the District Home Rule Act, in terms of passing emergency legislation to implement the vaccine mandate.
According to WashingtonInformer.com, the Home Rule Act passed through Congress on Dec. 24, 1973, and was signed by then-President Richard Nixon.
The Home Rule Act "allows the city limited self-government for the first time in over a century. The legislation devolved certain congressional powers of the District to local government, including a charter providing for the election of a mayor, city council, and elected community leaders known as advisory neighborhood commissioners.
"Under the charter, Congress reviews legislation passed by the council and signed by the mayor and retains authority over the city’s budget. The charter mandates that the President appoint District judges with Senate approval, but no provision exists granting voting representation in the U.S. Congress."
The Examiner reports that House Republicans have pledged to revisit, or even revoke, the Home Rule Act, if they claim the majority in the midterm elections on Nov. 8.
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