A Virginia-based conservative Christian advocacy group was turned away from a local restaurant just an hour before their reservation last week.

A representative of the Family Foundation said he was frustrated after the group was turned away from Metzger Bar and Butchery last Wednesday. The group claims the refusal had to do with their religious beliefs.

According to Todd Gathje, Director of Government Relations for the Family Foundation, one of the owners of Metzger called a representative of the Family Foundation about an hour before the reservation time, saying that the group would not be dining in the restaurant. 

“We’ve had events at restaurants all over the city and never encountered a situation like this,” Gathje said. “It’s no secret that we are very much engaged in the public policy debate on a number of controversial issues. But we never expected that we would be denied service at a restaurant based on our religious values or political beliefs.”

For businesses like restaurants, federal and state laws do not allow discrimination based on protected classes such as race, religion, sex and more, as defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

It’s not yet clear if this incident falls under one of those protected classes.

In a Facebook post the following day, Metzger wrote that the restaurant has “very rarely refused service to anyone who wished to dine with us.”

Facebook post by Metzger on Thursday explaining their refusal to serve the Family Foundation.

However, the restaurant added, “We have always refused service to anyone for making our staff feel uncomfortable and unsafe and this was the driving force behind our decision.”

The restaurant noted that many staff members were LGBTQ or women and that it believed the Family Foundation “seeks to deprive women and LGBTQ+ persons of their basic rights in Virginia.”

Gathje has previously written for the Family Foundation about a stalled effort in 2021 to remove an unenforceable provision of the Virginia Constitution — invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 — that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, saying that removing it would open the door to “polygamous, incestuous, kinship or even child marriages.”

Gathje said he thought it was unfair of the restaurant to deny service over the group’s religious beliefs.

“It was a very intolerant message being conveyed,” Gathje said.

The Family Foundation said it is open to the possibility of a sit down so that something like this never has to happen again.

“We would welcome an opportunity to have a discussion with them,” Gathje said. “Meet with them in a private setting where can have a heart-to-heart about some of the issues.”

8News reached out to Metzger Bar and Butchery for an interview before publication and did not receive a response.