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Health officials shut down central Alberta restaurant for repeated COVID-19 infractions

A central Alberta cafe at the centre of a months-long battle over enforcement of COVID-19 health restrictions was shuttered Wednesday by Alberta Health Services.

Restaurant will remain closed until owner can 'demonstrate the ability to comply'

The Whistle Stop has been at the centre of a high-profile legal battle over enforcement and a public debate over the strains that pandemic-related health orders have placed on small business. (Whistle Stop/Facebook)

A central Alberta cafe at the centre of a months-long battle over enforcement of COVID-19 health restrictions was shuttered Wednesday by Alberta Health Services.

Health inspectors "physically closed" the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., Alberta Health Services said in a statement. 

Inspectors will prevent access to the building until the operator can "demonstrate the ability to comply" with COVID-19 health measures and food safety requirements, AHS said.

The business has operated for months in defiance of public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Whistle Stop, about 70 kilometres northeast of Red Deer, operates a restaurant, convenience store, gas station and campground. The diner was also operating as a drive-in theatre during the pandemic. 

413 complaints

AHS said it has received 413 complaints from the public about the restaurant since Jan. 1. The cafe has been inspected numerous times and violations were found during each visit, AHS said. 

"Every effort has been made to work collaboratively with the operator as well as the property owner to come to a resolution before progressing to further enforcement action," reads the statement.

WATCH | Whistle Stop shut down by health officials

Health officials shut down restaurant for repeated COVID-19 infractions

1 year ago
Duration 1:39
The Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta. remained open for months in defiance of public health restrictions — until Wednesday when health inspectors with AHS “physically closed” the restaurant.

"At this time the operator of the Whistle Stop Cafe has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, despite efforts by AHS and other partners, nor have they attempted to work to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission."

The restaurant was first issued a closure order on Jan. 22, AHS said. The following month, a Court of Queen's Bench order was obtained requiring the business to comply with the previous closure order.

A suspension of the operator's food handling permit was issued in April and a separate order soon followed, requiring the Whistle Stop to cease both dine-in and take-out services.

The operator's food handling permit was cancelled indefinitely on April 16 for failure to comply with the previous closure order. 

A live video posted by restaurant owner Chris Scott to Facebook Wednesday morning, shows health inspectors and RCMP officers arriving at the restaurant to padlock the front door. 

In the live video, Scott can be heard questioning the closure and describing public health restrictions as unconstitutional. 

"People are interfering with my rights without due process, that's what I've been saying since the beginning," he told the inspectors on site. 

"They want compliance at all costs." 

Scott has previously said that the public health measures intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 have gone on too long. He said health officials have mismanaged the health crisis and small businesses have suffered the consequences. 

Christopher Scott, the owner of Whistle Stop Cafe, has repeatedly defied public health restrictions intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

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