UPDATE 1/27/22: The DC liquor board voted to refer the Big Board’s case to the District’s Office of the Attorney General to draft a suspension notice.
The Big Board’s liquor license is now in jeopardy for repeated violations of DC’s vaccine and mask mandates, just over a week after the mayor’s latest Covid orders went into effect. The H Street bar and burger joint has been quickly racking up warnings and fines for staff not wearing masks, not requiring proof of vaccination to enter, and not posting required signage. Now, Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) investigators have determined that the business will have to appear before the DC liquor board, which has the power to suspend or revoke its license. The case will be reviewed on Wednesday, January 26, and the Big Board is allowed to continue operating in the interim.
The bar initially hinted on Twitter that it would not be following the Mayor’s orders with an “everyone is welcome” message that fired up pro- and anti-vax mandate camps. The business was a little more explicit about its intentions over the weekend, thanking a Daily Callercorrespondent who started a GoFundMe page to help them fight against vaccine mandates and “stand up to the tyranny.” (The campaign raised more than $12,000 in four days.)
“We understand that not everybody agrees with this message and we fully support your right to hold and express that opinion,” the Big Board tweeted.
The bar has gained the endorsement of some prominent anti-mandate Republicans. Texas congressman Chip Roy, for example, tweeted “God bless you. #FreedomLives.” He also mentioned the Big Board on Fox News, saying it’s “harder to get a burger in your nation’s capital than it is to get carjacked.”
A handful of other establishments—including Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, Junction Bistro Bar & Bakery, and Mythology Lounge—received verbal warnings for not enforcing the vaccine mandate over the past week. Even more warnings were doled out at places where staff were not wearing masks, including Charlie Palmer Steak, Bar Elena, and Archibald’s strip club. (See the full list of citations here.)
Bar and restaurants that violate the city’s mask or vaccine mandates get two warnings (verbal, then written), then receive escalating fines ($1,000 for the first, $2,000 for the second) before they’re required to appear before the DC liquor board. DC officials do have the power to summarily shut down a business that’s deemed an “imminent danger to the health and welfare of the public.” Typically, though, that authority is only exercised if there’s, say, a shooting or other violent incident.