‘Drunk Wives Matter’ merchandise pulled from Va. bar after online criticism

A Loudoun County, Virginia, bar owner has removed a T-shirt for sale in his restaurant that read “Drunk Wives Matter” following growing criticism on social media.

Jason Bursey, the owner of Parallel Wine & Whiskey Bar in Ashburn, said it was a regular patron who first brought his attention to the insensitivity of a T-shirt for sale in his restaurant.

Tacked up next to shirts that read “Make Merlot Great Again” and “I got corked at Parallel” was a shirt with his restaurant’s logo that read “Drunk Wives Matter.”

“Normally, I don’t typically like kind of cower to anything that I do, but at the same time, I do see how that could come across sensitive, especially in these sensitive times,” he said.

Bursey said he took the shirt off the wall the following day but then learned a photo of the T-shirt shared by Heather Gottlieb, of Leesburg, was circulating on various community groups, including the Real Ladies of Loudoun County.

“It was obviously a play on Black Lives Matter. And, I didn’t think it should be something that’s used for profit or mocked because this is a real issue that we have,” Gottlieb told WTOP.

Gottlieb came across the T-shirt in a Facebook post shared by a Parallel Wine patron who thought the shirt was “awesome” and said it immediately struck her as an opportunity to call out racism.

“I didn’t know the post was going to blow up like it did, but it appears it was past due,” Gottlieb said.

Bursey said the shirt was not up for sale in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and he is not insensitive to it. He feels that he is being portrayed in the “smear campaign” to “crucify” his business.

In her Facebook post, Gottlieb is not calling for any action, such as a boycott, against Bursey’s business, but she does refer to the owners of Parallel as “straight-up racists.”

In a video Bursey posted on Facebook on Monday, he said he did not mean to offend anybody and will apologize if the shirt offended anybody, adding, “What I’m not is a monster racist in this community.”

“I’m a wine and whiskey bar. Drunk Wives Matter is funny here, as well as my other shirts. And, like I’ve said before, if anybody is offended by it, I understood and that’s why I took it down. If anybody was offended by it, I apologize,” Bursey told WTOP.

He noted that he did not come up with the phrase on the T-shirt that had been for sale years before now, and he does not plan to put it up or sell it again in the future.

“Black Lives Matter was created back in 2013. So I don’t know even if he had the shirt two years ago or a year ago, I don’t know how he’d see that as appropriate,” Gottlieb said.

Bursey and Gottlieb both acknowledge that they have worked together in the past on at least one charity event and were connected on Facebook. Both said they have disagreed on issues before, including during the congressional hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment two years ago.

“If my shirt offended them because it was my shirt at my restaurant, I’m sorry if that offended them. Am I going to take a knee and apologize for anything else? No, I will not, because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Bursey said.

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