Food  |  News & Politics

The Big Board Is Suing the DC Government Over Its Vaccine Mandate

The H Street burger bar claims the city violated the Home Rule Act.

The Big Board. Photograph by Evy Mages

H Street Corridor burger bar the Big Board became a national right-wing rallying point when it openly defied the District’s mask and vaccine mandates earlier this year. The business had its liquor license suspended  in February and was shut down by the health department for repeated violations, leading to support from numerous Republican members of Congress and a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $34,000.

Now, the Big Board owner Eric Flannery is suing DC’s Department of Health and its former director LaQuandra Nesbitt in her official capacity, the Washington Examiner first reported. In a complaint filed today, Flannery argues that Mayor Muriel Bowser violated the Home Rule Act by enacting emergency executive orders for public health during the pandemic without any congressional review.

“There is an exception to this requirement for emergency legislation, but in such case the legislation ‘shall be effective for a period of not to exceed 90 days,'” the lawsuit notes. But the complaint argues that the DC Council used emergency amendments to “evade” and “sidestep” congressional review and extend public health orders over more than two years. “The Mayor took full advantage of the D.C. Council’s grant of authority, even if the Council lacked the authority it extended in the first place.”

The lawsuit describes the health department’s suspension of the Big Board’s liquor license as “unlawful” and argues that the agency exceeded its authority by citing violations beyond typical food operations.  The bar was also issued a series of fines, which it says it has not paid because it is challenging their validity. The Big Board did, however, pay a $100 non-compliance restoration fee in order to reopen in April. Flannery argues his due process was violated because he was “barred from challenging the underlying action during the two-year emergency,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgement that DC Health acted unlawfully and beyond its regulatory authority. The Big Board is also seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages (including the $100 license restoration fee) plus legal fees.

Flannery is being represented by attorneys from Consovoy McCarthy law firm, which has represented former President Donald Trump in various legal battles. The legal team also includes attorneys from the Buckeye Institute, a right-wing think tank based in Ohio.

The Department of Health and Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.