Parallel owner responds to criticism over "Drunk Wives Matter" shirt

The interior of Parallel Wine and Whiskey Bar, located in Broadlands Center Plaza in Ashburn. 

After an outpouring of social media posts and outrage over the weekend about a T-shirt that hung in Parallel Wine and Whiskey Bar in Ashburn, Parallel owner Jason Bursey addressed the controversy Monday.

Bursey, who has owned the restaurant since 2010, said he has sold a variety of T-shirts over the years with a play on words based on the restaurant's wine and whiskey focus, such as “How merlot can you go?” or “Virginia is for whiskey lovers.”

The controversial “Drunk Wives Matter” T-shirt had been hanging in the restaurant for about a year and a half, he said, and it was meant to be funny.

The words on the T-shirt are a clear reference to Black Lives Matter, a nationwide movement that continues to gain publicity following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, who was black, was killed by a white police officer who put his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.

“I didn't come up with the slogan, it is sold online,” Bursey told the Times-Mirror.

A couple of weeks ago, about the time when the restaurant was reopening for outdoor dining, a friend of Bursey's saw the T-shirt and mentioned to him that he should to take it down. Bursey agreed, and he said the T-shirt has not been there for a least a week.

“I never intended for it to be offensive. Right now I'm worried about keeping the business open after the pandemic. When my friend mentioned it, I agreed that now is not the best time to have it up there -- and I don't want to offend anyone. I feel terrible that people are upset about it,” Bursey said.

Heather Elise, who sparked a firestorm on Sunday by posting a photo of the shirt on social media, told the Times-Mirror that she has no reason to want to hurt Bursey's business. Her post has been shared more than 200 times.

Dozens of other Loudouners have also taken to social media to criticize Bursey.

“It's important people understand where they spend their money. Black Lives Matter started in 2013. I don't know how you could think that's funny ever. It's offensive to BLM and to women,” she said.

People who have commented on social media said they would not be returning to Parallel and that they found the shirt "disgusting." Some posted "boycott Parallel" photos on Facebook. 

Michelle Shapiro said, "Absolutely banning parallel. The BLM march on Saturday ended there, and while the people who started this particular march were talking, Parallel continued to play their music and go about their business like nothing was happening."

Elise said she has recently been trying to read and listen for things she can do to speak out against racism. Racial awareness is heightening across the nation following Floyd's death and ensuing protests in cities big and small.

“A friend suggested when you see things to call it out, so that's what I did,” Elise said.

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Ashburn resident Wendell Smith had this to say about the situation:

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Editor's note: Comments on this story have been disabled due to numerous attacks and threats directed at fellow commenters.

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