VA Business Owners Forced to Watch Their Livelihoods Die as COVID Restrictions Push Customers Across a Street Which Doubles as the State Line


Everyone knows that the coronavirus is far more transmissible after 10 p.m., right?

Bristol, Virginia, is located in the western part of the state on the Tennessee border, nearly 400 miles from Washington, D.C.

State Street, located in the downtown area, separates it from its twin city of Bristol, Tennessee. According to CNN, “Though split across two states, Bristol is one community, with one chamber of commerce.”

Different states, different governors, different rules.

Outkick’s Clay Travis interviewed J.J. Gillenwater and Blair Jones, the owners of a restaurant in Bristol, Virginia, on his radio show.

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These men must issue a last call to their customers at 9:30 p.m. because state law requires them to close at 10 p.m.

Gillenwater told Travis they watch as their customers “cross the street into Bristol, Tennessee,” where there are no COVID-related curfews, and carry on. “You can watch it every evening.”

“We’re being held to a standard from northern Virginia, the D.C. area. It’s ridiculous. It’s two totally different areas of the country,” Gillenwater added.

“We are consistently losing money because of these restrictions,” Jones said. “Live entertainment has been curtailed which has impacted our late-night sales having to shut down at 10 p.m. It’s been a real killer for us.”

Should big-state governors take regional differences into account when setting COVID-related regulations?

The two were hoping for some relief at the end of January. Instead, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, best known for his support of late-term abortion and controversial medical school yearbook photos, extended his executive order to remain in effect through the end of February, according to Outkick.

The current rules for Virginia restaurants can be viewed here.

CNN reported on the situation in Bristol last May. At that point, Virginia restaurants were closed. However, Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee had allowed restaurants to open on a limited basis on April 27 in his state.

Virginia restaurant owner Joe Deel spoke to CNN at that time. His business had fallen from an average of $1,500 a day to $90.

“If there’s a virus over there, it’s over here,” Deel told CNN.

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As mentioned above, the differences between the D.C. metro area of Virginia and the part of the state where Bristol is located are substantial.

“Maybe the restrictions should be more about county, area code, region and maybe not statewide,” Deel suggested. “I did hear [Northam] in one of his earlier comments say he was going to take care of the state of Virginia from Richmond to Roanoke. And I would like for him to know that the state comes for another 150 miles past that.”

Deel’s idea is wise. Regions vary within many states. New York City and the surrounding suburbs are vastly different from the rural towns of upstate New York. Yet most governors fail to incorporate these variations into their pandemic policies, instead opting for a one-size-fits-all approach.

Northam’s overly restrictive executive orders won’t stop COVID, but they will continue to kill Virginia businesses.

Is that the point?

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Elizabeth writes commentary for The Western Journal and The Washington Examiner. Her articles have appeared on many websites, including MSN, RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist and RealClearPolitics. Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Elizabeth is a contract writer at The Western Journal. Her articles have appeared on many conservative websites including RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist,, HotAir, MSN and RealClearPolitics.

Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter.