Lawsuit Claims Northam’s COVID-19 Restrictions Discriminate Against Certain Businesses

by Tyler Arnold


A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Roanoke claims COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Gov. Ralph Northam discriminate against certain businesses while allowing others to operate more freely.

Northam recently eased the COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor gatherings for amusement and entertainment venues. However, the governor failed to include wedding venues and other businesses in the recent change.

Outdoor entertainment venues, such as sporting venues, entertainment venues, fairs and museums can increase capacity to 30% with a cap of 1,000 people. But businesses that conduct outdoor events outside of the amusement and entertainment classification are still stuck at a rigid 25-person limit with violations punishable with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Belle Garden Estate, a wedding venue in Franklin County, is suing the governor with the argument that its businesses are arbitrarily excluded from playing host to larger gatherings. The lawsuit states, under current restrictions, it can only hold larger gatherings if the weddings are conducted as a religious ceremony, which has lighter restrictions.

“The executive action should be enjoined to wedding venues on either the basis that the order inadvertently or arbitrarily excluded wedding venues as businesses authorized to conduct business like other amusement industries or, alternatively, that it is patently discriminatory to [the] plaintiff in its business industry to restrict business operations while other amusement and entertainment businesses do not face the same restrictions,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states customers have been planning weddings for months, but are still not able to hold them with their intended number of guests. However, if the wedding were a religious celebration or if there was a live band and the venue, then the event could be significantly larger.

“[The arbitrary distinction] is not based on any logical basis of science and is no different than other businesses which are being allowed to operate with fewer or no restrictions,” the lawsuit argues.

According to the lawsuit, the order is causing irreparable harm to the venue, which generates between $5,000 to $8,000 for any given wedding.

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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.







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