By Associated Press - Saturday, March 20, 2021

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) - A Virginia judge has refused to issue a preliminary injunction sought by state officials against a restaurant whose owner has defied Gov. Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.

The judge on Friday denied the state’s request for an injunction that would have resulted in the immediate closure of Gourmeltz restaurant in Fredericksburg. The judge said the state had failed to show that it would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction or that an injunction was in the public interest.

The Free Lance-Star reports that Gourmeltz owner Matt Strickland has refused to stop serving food and alcohol despite having his licenses suspended by the Virginia Health Department.

State attorneys argued at a hearing last week that Strickland’s refusal to comply with mask and social distancing requirements justified the restaurant’s immediate closing. Strickland says the state’s mandates are unconstitutional.

State officials began investigating Gourmeltz after receiving complaints about employees not wearing masks, social distance protocols not being followed and required signs not being posted.

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