C&B Talk to Eric Flannery, D.C. Bar Owner Defying Mandates

FLANNERY: Since I announced on Twitter, “Hey, this is what we’re going to do,” the Department of Health has been here four times. The ABA, which is the D.C. licensing agency, has been here eight or nine times. The government doesn’t send me a paycheck. I send the government money. I am not an agent of the government to do this. If they want to come down and check people’s medical status, they’re more than welcome to. I don’t have the people for that. I don’t know. I really don’t know. When people ask me, “When are you gonna get on the other side of this?” I don’t know. I just know that I’m doing the right thing, and this place is supposed to be open.

BUCK: That was Eric Flannery, owner of The Big Board, a bar in the H Street corridor of Washington, D.C., an area I know, actually, quite well. Eric is with us now, Eric Flannery, owner The Big Board. Sir, thanks for calling in.

FLANNERY: Thank you guys very much for having me on. I really appreciate it. I really do.

BUCK: You’re speaking to our people all across the country, Eric. Tell them what happened to your establishment in D.C., and what’s going on?

FLANNERY: So D.C. has now… They have revoked our liquor license, and they have come down and they’ve revoked our basic business license. So we’re not allowed to operate as an alcohol establishment or as any kind of establishment at all. They’ve done that based on the mayor’s order that all of my servers are required to wear masks at all times inside, and we are required to check people’s personal medical status when this come through.

BUCK: Can I ask you if your servers have to wear masks but not patrons, is that the way the rule goes in D.C.?

FLANNERY: So the patrons are supposed to wear them when they open up the door. When they get a glass of water, then they just take it off.

BUCK: It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s true it New York too. Clay, I know you’ve got a lot here.

CLAY: Yeah. So that means that your business is shut down and all of employees are now not able to work as well? What’s the timeframe under which you could potentially reopen? How does that work for you paying rent? What is the status here?

FLANNERY: So the… I’ve got a hearing coming up. I’ve still gotta negotiate with D.C. on this. This is a hearing of the ABR board of directors, which is the D.C. Alcohol Beverage Regulation Authority. And they have a meeting, they have a a team of people that is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council who are going to hear the ideas behind this. They have to decide whether or not they think I can have my license restored. I then have to get my license restored at the Department of Health as well. I have not gotten far enough into that process to know how —

CLAY: All of your employees… Yeah. Sorry to cut you off. But all of your employees, the people who work, who I would guess, what, how many people do you employ, none of them are able to work or get a salary right now because you’re not allowed to open; correct?

FLANNERY: That’s correct — and, trust me, they want to work. They’re down there. They were having some of the most fun they’ve had in years over the last six months because it was such a long time of us being shut down that when we were open, they were ready and happy.

BUCK: We’re speaking to Eric Flannery, owner of The Big Board in H Street corridor of D.C., Washington, D.C. Eric, are the people coming in, the little commissars from the health department, are they at all sheepish? They must recognize at some level that the mask policy of employees but not patrons, that’s nothing to do with science. That’s moronic. Obviously, they’re penalizing you, but are they at least a little apologetic for how stupid they have to act in the name of the city of Washington, D.C.? And then also — we’ll get into how people can help you, but first talk about that. What’s it like dealing with these folks?

FLANNERY: I’m always perfectly nice to all of these, folks. I don’t say anything. They have misquoted me in a couple of the official documents that they submitted, where I was not allowed to review ’em. But I think what happens is they assign me with something that I’m not before they walk in so that they don’t have to feel bad about themselves for doing what they’re doing, which is shutting down a business where everybody is welcome.

CLAY: Eric, you’re supposed to be checking for vaccine cards, I suppose — or vaccine photos, cards, or whatever else — when you enter the business, my understanding is, in D.C. Are most businesses doing that? In your experience, does that have any impact at all, and what in the world process is there to eventually end a restriction like that?

FLANNERY: So there is… A lot of of the businesses aren’t doing it. You can read newspaper articles that 75% of the businesses in D.C. are not completing the requirements correctly. Two… I lost my train of thought there for —

CLAY: How do these processes end in right now you’re supposed to be checking vaccine cards and everybody has to be masked. Is this is a mayoral decision? Is there a body to appeal to? How does this process work?

FLANNERY: It’s a mayoral decision right now. On the mayoral order there is no end date to the mayoral order, and there is no exit criteria on the mayoral order.

CLAY: So in theory, it’s never ending.

FLANNERY: In theory it is never ending unless it is superseded by another document.

BUCK: So I just want to ask, how can folks if there’s anything anyway, can they help, can they stand with you? I know Senator Rand Paul has been trying to get attention for you standing up here for what is right. What can folks listening do?

FLANNERY: There’s a lot of things. What I tell people, if you’re in D.C., you can write to your… Do your good citizen stuff. Write to your city council member, write to the mayor, show up at the meeting, see what’s happened. And, more importantly, if you’re in D.C., read the mayoral order. I talked to so many people who are either with me or against me, and I ask them, have they read the mayoral order? It’s six and a half pages. That’s all it is. It’s six and a half pages. It does not have what is required to put the type of change in society, it doesn’t have the justification in that mayoral order.

BUCK: Tyranny is what it is. Eric Flannery of The Big Board in Washington, D.C., restaurateur. Sir, we wish you the best. Thanks for coming on the show. We appreciate it.