Lawyer for Yellowknife pub charged with COVID-19 violation vows to 'fight the fine'

"It's almost as if it's become a crime to not be fearful of this so-called pandemic," said the lawyer representing the Monkey Tree Pub. Joshua Halpern has worked on similar cases with the Fight the Fines campaign sponsored by Rebel News.

'It's almost as if it's become a crime to not be fearful of this so-called pandemic'

The Monkey Tree Pub in Yellowknife is challenging a $5,175 fine from the N.W.T. government that alleges they violated public health orders. (Sidney Cohen/CBC)

A Yellowknife pub is getting a few more weeks to mount its case against a $5,175 fine for violating the N.W.T.'s public health orders.

The Monkey Tree Pub was supposed to enter a plea in court Tuesday morning, but Judge Robert Gorin adjourned the case to May 4 so both sides would have more time to review the facts. Gorin noted a conflict in the case, but not because he's a "regular patron" of the Monkey Tree. 

Jen Vornbrock, one of the pub's owners, told CBC in a previous interview that the ticket is related to a liquor inspection from Nov. 14, which says the pub's dance floor was operational.

That's in violation of the N.W.T.'s Emerging Wisely plan, which states that dance floors must stay closed in dine-in restaurants and bars. Businesses can apply for exemptions to those rules, which are evaluated by the N.W.T. government on a case-by-case basis. 

The pub is being represented by Toronto lawyer Joshua Halpern, who is working closely with conservative media outlet Rebel News on the Fight the Fines campaign. This case is directly related to the campaign, he said. 

Halpern said he's hoping to settle the case outside of court — but is ready to mount a constitutional case if the N.W.T. government continues to push ahead. 

"It's almost as if it's become a crime to not be fearful of this so-called pandemic," Halpern told the CBC. "As if we don't have enough anxiety in our regular day to day lives."

"You would think that these government officials are describing a gruesome crime scene," he said. "Empty bottles … people swaying left to right, I mean yeah it's a bar. This is just your neighbourhood small business, trying to survive." 

In an email, a spokesperson for the territory said there has so far only been one business charged under the N.W.T'.s Public Health Act during the pandemic.

Since the case is still before the courts, no further comment was offered.


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