EXCLUSIVE: New Free the People doc launches about DC restaurant Big Board, which was shuttered for defying Covid lockdowns

"An inspirational reminder of what can happen when a few courageous people stand for their fundamental rights."


On Thursday, the Free the People organization released its award-winning documentary 'Everyone Is Welcome' to tell the story of one man who stood up to the city of Washington DC's Covid-19 vaccine mandates and almost lost his restaurant in the process. 

The film follows Navy veteran Eric Flannery, who refused to enforce the city vaccine mandate that required him to check the vaccine status of every patron of his restaurant, The Big Board.

With the mandate set to go into effect on January 15, 2022, in an act of defiance, Flannery posted on X, "As has always been the case for us, everyone is welcome. This rule applies yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Hopefully we'll see you January 16th."

The city immediately moved to suspend Flannery's business and liquor licenses indefinitely, and The Big Board remained shut down even after the mandate had been lifted. With the help of The Buckeye Institute, The Big Board was eventually allowed to reopen.

After The Big Board opened on April 1, 2022, the city moved to fine Flannery for violations of the initial order. At that point, Flannery suspected that the city was targeting his business "with letters and citations,” which led him to once again be in a position fighting to keep The Big Board Open. 

Robert Alt, President and CEO of The Buckeye Institute and the lead attorney representing Eric Flannery, explained to the Post Millennial, “The Buckeye Institute has proudly represented Mr. Flannery in his David v. Goliath legal battles, which include first fighting to reopen The Big Board, then challenging unconstitutional Covid mandates, and now holding DC officials responsible for retaliating against Mr. Flannery for statements he made opposing the pandemic-era emergency orders.” He added, “‘Everyone is Welcome’ is a moving film featuring Mr. Flannery’s compelling story and the immense courage it takes for one person to stand up to government overreach."

Throughout the ordeal, Flannery's story gained significant attention from those across the country who were against the mandates being issued. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) are both featured in the film, supporting Flannery and The Big Board. 

In a statement to The Post Millennial, Representative Massie said, "Eric Flannery is a hero in my book. He bravely stood against a tyrannical government rule and openly defied it." He continued, "Without people like Eric, we might still be under government lockdown."

"‘Everyone is Welcome’ is an inspirational reminder of what can happen when a few courageous people stand for their fundamental rights,” Massie said about the film. 

Senator Paul told The Post Millennial, "’Everyone is Welcome’ is a film about freedom and how one man dared to stand up against the unconstitutional COVID mandates, and through it all, his business has managed to survive. Everyone needs to see this film."

Terry Kibbe, the CEO of Free the People, said in a statement, "At Free the People we like to tell the stories of unsung heroes. So when I met Eric, who was willing to stand up simply because it was the right thing to do, I knew we had to tell the story of Eric’s fight, to inspire other everyday heroes to stand up." She added, "The powers that be, along with the mainstream media, don't want you to hear about Eric’s fight for justice, they don't want you to see this film, which is exactly why you should see ‘Everyone is Welcome’."

On September 25, The Buckeye Institute filed a lawsuit against DC area Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, alleging that in their protest of The Big Board getting its liquor license back, they had falsely claimed The Big Board "Negatively impacted property values, peace, order, and quiet, including the noise and litter provisions in DC law, and that the restaurant harmed residential parking needs and vehicular and pedestrian safety." 

In one of the meetings protesting The Big Board's liquor license, the suit alleges that one of the defendants, Mr. Eckenwiler, said, "I mean just some of the things he’s said publicly, we should go ahead and protest the license" as to why it should not be reinstated. 

The lawsuit is ongoing and Flannery is seeking damages, including attorney fees, punitive damages, and any further relief the Court deems appropriate. 

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