Kemptville restaurant that held anti-lockdown rally has liquor licence suspended

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has suspended the liquor licence of the South Branch Bistro after a rally was held at the restaurant earlier this week.

AGCO now seeking to permanently revoke South Branch Bistro's licence

The South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, Ont., has had its liquor licence suspended by the AGCO following an anti-lockdown event it held earlier this week. (South Branch Bistro/Instagram )

A Kemptville, Ont., restaurant has had its liquor licence suspended after holding an anti-lockdown rally earlier this week, according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

The interim suspension of the South Branch Bistro's licence was ordered "for reasons of public interest and safety," the regulatory agency said in a notice posted to its website.

In the notice, the AGCO said its officials — along with the Ontario Provincial Police, bylaw officers and public health officials — showed up at the "No More Lockdown" rally on April 8, as it was being held in contravention of the provincewide COVID-19 shutdown.

Those officials found patrons drinking alcohol inside the establishment, on its patio and in the parking lot, the AGCO said.

They also found that people weren't observing physical distancing or wearing masks — including children and the restaurant's staff.  When AGCO officials returned the next day, they found that liquor was again being served on the  patio.

Again, staff weren't wearing masks, the gaming commission said.

People gather outside the South Branch Bistro on April 8, 2021. The AGCO says they found people contravening Ontario's pandemic rules when they attended the anti-lockdown rally and again when they returned the next day. (Dan Mellon)

The AGCO's registrar has now issued a notice of proposal to permanently revoke the bistro's liquor licence for infractions under the Liquor Licence Act.

The event at the Clothier Street East restaurant was attended by independent Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston MPP Randy Hillier, who heads a group called No More Lockdowns Canada.

In an Instagram post made before the AGCO announced the licence suspension, the bistro said it was "faced with two choices — stay open to feed our family, or close for good" and that it had "opted for the former [rather] than the latter."

According to the AGCO, the restaurant has the right to appeal the interim licence suspension and the notice of proposal to an independent tribunal.

The OPP are investigating and have not announced any charges in relation to the event. 

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