Food  |  News & Politics

Restaurateur Says Virginia Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Refused to Wear Mask, Threatened to Sue Owners

Amanda Chase claimed she had a medical exemption to the state's mask requirement, says an owner of a Harrisonburg eatery.

Chase in the state Capitol in January 2020. Photograph by Jeffrey Knight/VCU Capital News Service/Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase visited a Harrisonburg restaurant Sunday evening, says one of its owners, and threatened to sue the restaurateurs when they asked her to wear a mask. Virginia has a state mandate that requires people indoors to wear face coverings. Chase claimed a medical exemption to the requirement, according to a Facebook post from Vito’s owner Katharine Nye Pellerito.

In addition, Pellerito wrote, Chase “recorded my husband while he was explaining to her our policy and got on the phone with her lawyer while in our restaurant.” Vito’s website says customers must wear masks when they’re not at their tables.  Posts on Chase’s Facebook page indicate she was in nearby New Market, Virginia, this past weekend and also recently appeared with rocker Ted Nugent. Chase’s campaign didn’t return an emailed request for comment Monday but she wrote on her Facebook page that over the weekend, “I had on two separate occasions where store employees initially denied me service because I refused to wear a mask.” Pellerito has not responded to a message left at Vito’s.

Chase, a former tea party candidate who became vocal supporter of President Trump, has enjoyed an unorthodox career as a state politician. She was kicked out of the Republican party in Chesterfield County, which she represents, following a rift with Chesterfield’s Republican sheriff, has said it’s people “who are naive and unprepared that end up raped,” and may be best known for a parking dispute in which she berated a Capitol Police officer and allegedly called Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar “Miss Piggy.”

Chase wore a gun on the Senate floor before Democrats banned them from the building after taking the majority this year, and she ceased caucusing with Republicans in the state Senate last year. When she announced her run this past February, State Senator Mark Obenshain said she “doesn’t have a level of substance, maturity or seriousness that Virginians expect in a gubernatorial candidate.” Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.