Manitoba

Winnipeg mayor calls for shutdown of repeat health order violators as 3 businesses rack up multiple fines

A total of 28 tickets for violations of Manitoba's COVID-19 public health orders were handed out last week, with more than half of those going to businesses.

16 tickets worth more than $72K given out in Manitoba last week for violation of COVID-19 health orders

A closed sign hangs in a restaurant. Last week, 16 tickets were given to Manitoba businesses accused of breaching provincial public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three Winnipeg businesses accounted for 10 of those tickets. (Stefanie Loos/Bloomberg)

A total of 28 tickets for violations of Manitoba's COVID-19 public health orders were handed out last week, with more than half of those going to businesses.

Enforcement officers wrote 16 tickets for a total of $72,592 in fines to businesses during the week of Sept. 20–26, according to the provincial government.

Of those, three Winnipeg businesses accounted for 10 of the tickets: Monstrosity Burger, Chaise Café & Lounge, and Morfit Training Centre.

Each ticket comes with a $5,000 fine.

CBC News has reached out to the owners of all three businesses. Morfit declined to comment while Monstrosity's voice mail is full.

Monstrosity, a strip-mall restaurant on Corydon Avenue, was given four tickets last week.

The business has already been ticketed at least eight other times this month, with the owners repeatedly taking to social media to state their defiance of the orders.

Chaise Café on Provencher Boulevard was given three $5,000 tickets last week. It has also been dinged in the past at its other location on Corydon. 

Morfit also received three $5,000 tickets — one at its Donald Street location and two at its Taché Avenue location.

The other six businesses that received fines last week are a mix of companies in the retail, food and service industries.

Five are in Winkler and Steinbach, areas where there has been vocal opposition to pandemic health rules and where vaccine uptake rates continue to lag behind other parts of Manitoba.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman told reporters on Wednesday that he wants to see businesses that repeatedly violate the health orders to be shut down.

He said he has written to Health Minister Audrey Gordon, urging the province to exercise its authority under the Manitoba Health Act.

"I think doing so would go a long way to respecting all those law-abiding residents and businesses that are doing their part to responsibly protect the health and safety of their employees as well as our community," he said.

"I'm encouraging them to take that action where necessary."

It's a message Bowman tweeted out earlier in the week as well.

Since the end of August, face masks have been required in all indoor public spaces across the province and proof of full vaccination status has been required to eat inside a restaurant or attend a symphony or dance event, and to go to movie theatres, casinos, bingo halls, or any licensed premises.

Indoor and outdoor ticketed sporting events and concerts are also exclusive to people who are fully vaccinated.

Fined for allowing dancing: business owner

In response to CBC's request for comment, Chaise owner Shea Ritchie replied by text.

Rather than responding to Bowman's comments, Ritchie called the public health orders unethical.

He said he was fined for allowing dancing, which is currently allowed if people are fully vaccinated and masked. 

He accused the media of pushing a biased narrative and distorting the truth.

"COVID hasn't been a two-sided story. We both know that," he wrote on Thursday.

      Asked whether the provincial government is considering following through on Bowman's request, a Manitoba Justice spokesperson said the department "cannot speak in generalities about compliance in the business sector," but the province "continues to adjust its strategies and tactics as needed."

      Souradet Shaw, an epidemiologist, infectious disease modelling expert and assistant professor at the University of Manitoba, stopped short of echoing Bowman's call for shutdowns of repeat offenders.

      However, he suggested the province should be more assertive in its orders, rather than just handing out fines — and make it clear that closing businesses could be an option at its disposal.

      "I'm fairly concerned about where our trends [in new cases of COVID-19] are going, especially with the impact it will have on acute care, and potentially on keeping our schools safe," he said.

      "I think a stronger message is not unwarranted at this point, as it seems unfair to the businesses who have worked really hard to comply with the orders."

      As part of its enforcement last week, the province also handed out 12 tickets to individuals, including 10 for violating the mask mandate. Those tickets are $298 each.

      Another two tickets, for $1,296 each, were given to individuals for other offences.

      Officials also handed out 57 warnings during the week.

      Since enforcement efforts began in April 2020, there have been 2,167 tickets issued worth a grand total of $3.1 million.

      Corrections

      • An earlier version of this story said Morfit received one ticket at its Donald Street location and one at its Taché Avenue location. In fact, the Taché Avenue location received two tickets.
        Oct 01, 2021 1:21 PM CT

      ABOUT THE AUTHOR

      Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

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