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Wedding venue sues Governor Ralph Northam over guest capacity

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 7:24 PM EDT
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WIRTZ, Va. (WDBJ) - During the week, there aren’t many events at Belle Garden Estate. But on the weekends, the Wirtz, Virginia venue is home to many celebrations.

“I’ve always dreamed of owning my own wedding venue; we just all fell in love with it,” said owner Isabelle Russell.

Russell purchased the property, which was a bed and breakfast, in 2018. For most of 2018, and 2019, the property was under construction.

“We were still doing weddings, during that process and we were going full force, and then COVID hit, which put a wrench in things,” said Russell.

In the latter part of 2020, Belle Garden Estate was able to have some weddings at its property, and as 2021 began, Russell was hopeful the venue would have semi-normal year, but the current executive order from the governor limits that.

“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 Russell.

Executive Order 72, which has been amended three times, says all public and private in-person gatherings happening outside must be capped at 25 people.

In recent weeks, the governor has amended the order to allow up to 1,000 people at outdoor entertainment venues, and outdoor graduation ceremonies can happen with up to 5000 people.

“We just got fed up with sitting around and waiting and feeling like we were just being left behind, the industry as a whole, so we made the decision to move forward and take action and put pressure on the governor to take the wedding industry seriously,” said Russell.

An injunction hearing for the case will take place in federal court Wednesday at 3 p.m. WDBJ7 reached out to the governor’s office for comment but a media representative responded saying the office could not comment on any pending litigation.

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