Injunction denied for wedding venue that sued governor over COVID limits

In the beginning of March, Belle Garden Estate filed a lawsuit against Governor Northam.
In the beginning of March, Belle Garden Estate filed a lawsuit against Governor Northam.(WDBJ)
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 3:13 PM EDT
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WIRTZ, Va. (WDBJ) - A Virginia court has denied an injunction requested by a Smith Mountain Lake-area wedding venue against Governor Northam’s COVID-19-related crowd restrictions.

“It was just very confusing and frustrating with all these mandates coming out, and none of them were directed toward the wedding industry in a positive way,” said owner Isabelle Russell after filing the lawsuit.

With the lawsuit over, Attorney Tim Anderson said in a Facebook post, “While disappointed, Belle Garden Estate believes this suit helped move the needle in how wedding venues are being unfairly treated by the Governor of Virginia. When the suit was filed in early March 2021, the Governor at that time limited wedding venues to no more than 25 attendees outdoors. One day before the hearing on the injunction, the Governor increased that number to 100 outdoor attendees. We believe this last-minute change by the Governor on the eve of this injunction hearing was greatly influenced by the pending action.”

Anderson said the court ruled the Governor’s restrictions on weddings were not a violation of equal protection, but included this note:

“The court does note, however, that the data cited in the Governor’s order grow more favorable with each passing day. While it is easy to say that the public interest weighs against enjoining Order 72 at the moment, the possibility of infectious disease is not talisman against injunctive relief. If the pandemic continues to abate, the court may be obligated to scrutinize the purported justifications for restrictions that individuals and businesses, like Belle Garden, contend impose of their constitutional rights.”

Anderson said his client still believes it’s unfair to allow a concert venue to be capped at 30% occupancy, and outdoor graduations to have as many as 5,000 attendees, but restrict an outdoor wedding venue to a crowd of 100. He said the business will decide whether to appeal the ruling.

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