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Days before phase one of Washington’s vaccination requirement went into effect Jan. 15, The Big Board, a family-owned bar on the popular H Street Corridor, tweeted that it would be “always” open to everyone.
The Big Board’s owners kept their promise, at a great cost. This week the bar, a mile from the US Capitol, was closed after refusing to comply with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order to check if guests over the age of 12 had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
But the bar already seems to have a different life, at least in conservative circles.
After a city health inspector posted a closure notice on the Big Board’s door Tuesday, saying the bar “poses an imminent health risk to the public,” Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said. ate at the bar with staff, according to The Washington Examiner and The Daily Caller, two conservative news outlets. But since then the bar has been closed to the public.
Mr. Paul has submitted a bill to Congress to repeal Washington’s vaccination requirements. He also previously claimed that “masks don’t work,” although public health officials agreed they limit the spread of the virus. A California study released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also showed that consistent use of high-quality masks offered wearers strong protection.
The Examiner and The Daily Caller reported that several other Republican members of the House joined Mr Paul on Tuesday night, all of whom have also publicly criticized vaccination mandates, including representatives Thomas Mass, Republican of Kentucky, and Ronny Jackson, Republican of Texas. Grinning and maskless, some of the legislators posed for pictures with a co-owner of the bar, Eric Flannery.
In a YouTube video filmed that evening, with some of the congressmen standing beside him, Mr. Flannery vowed to “keep fighting” and said the mayor’s order must be challenged in DC Superior Court.
Mr. Massie then saluted Mr. Flannery’s defiance. “If the mandate is illogical, then it’s only logical to oppose it,” Massie said. “If the mandate is unconstitutional, it is constitutional not to obey it. If the mandate is unscientific, the only scientific measure is to ignore it. And so God bless you and thank you for fighting.”
And Representative Tim Burchett invited Mr. Flannery to move. “If you want to come to Tennessee, we’re a freedom-loving state and would love to have you, brother,” he said.
The video was uploaded by Daily Signal, a conservative site, and later shared by The Big Board on its Facebook page.
Also on Thursday, Glenn Beck, the unvaccinated Conservative radio host previously criticized for spreading misinformation about Covid vaccines, interviewed Mr Flannery and promoted the bar by directing listeners to a fundraiser on GiveSendGo, a self-proclaimed Christian crowdfunding site ? site. Another conservative talk radio show, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, which took over the time slot previously occupied by right-wing talk radio star Rush Limbaugh, interviewed Mr. Flannery on Thursday and linked to the crowdfunding site. As of Saturday afternoon, this site had recorded donations of more than $16,500.
And a previous GoFundMe campaign for owners of The Big Board, run by a Correspondent with the Daily Caller on Jan. 19 and tweeted by Mr. Paul had raised more than $32,700 in donations as of Saturday afternoon.
Mr. Flannery and The Big Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When Mayor Bowser announced in December that vaccination would be mandatory, Washington saw rising rates of positive Covid tests as the Omicron variant became dominant.
The district’s Covid deaths have risen only slightly as a result, likely because more than 92 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.