Etobicoke restaurant ordered to close after defying provincial lockdown orders, allowing indoor dining
No charges will be laid at this time but could be later this week, police say
A Toronto barbecue restaurant owner has been ordered to close by the city's medical officer of health after openly defying Ontario's COVID-19 regulations Tuesday, and police now say they will enforce that closure after letting the eatery stay open earlier.
Toronto police said at first that the restaurant would be permitted to stay open all day on Tuesday, however later on during the day, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa issued an order for its closure under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, effective immediately.
Police, bylaw officers and public health officials first arrived at the restaurant in Etobicoke that opened for indoor dining Tuesday morning in direct violation of provincial COVID-19 rules, but said they were unable to close it at the time.
Police, however, returned late Tuesday afternoon after the closure order was issued, saying the action taken in the morning by officers was "not appropriate."
"The order was crystal clear. Toronto Public Health has closed this premise, it shall remain closed and the owner has been provided a detailed understanding of what his obligations are," Staff Superintendent Mark Barkley told reporters.
"If he opens tomorrow, we will be here. We will have a presence and we will ensure compliance with the order and compliance with the Reopening Ontario Act," Barkley said.
'It was a mistake, plain and simple,' police say
Barkely said earlier Tuesday that police had a "misunderstanding of what [we] should do and how [we] should do it."
"It was a mistake, plain and simple — it was a mistake."
In a news release, the city said it launched an investigation immediately after the restaurant was found to be operating in contravention of Ontario's Reopening Act and many patrons were seen not wearing masks or physically distancing.
Over a dozen officers were seen at Adamson Barbecue in Etobicoke after the restaurant owner announced plans to reopen despite lockdown measures in a video posted online Monday night.
Insp. Tim Crone told reporters that bylaw and public health officers will not be laying charges against the owner until later this week, if they do at all.
Prior to the closure order, Crone said the restaurant would be permitted to remain open for indoor dining for the rest of the day and that officers were on scene strictly to ensure public safety. He noted that officers will not be kicking out any patrons gathered at the restaurant, saying they don't have the capacity to do so.
"By the sheer number of people who are here right now, we don't have the ability to go in and physically remove everyone at this point — and it would be unsafe to do so," Crone said.
Toronto and Peel region entered a 28-day lockdown on Monday, which prohibited restaurants and bars from opening their indoor and outdoor dining services.
The current restrictions in place only allow establishments to offer take-out or delivery services.
WATCH | Ford comments on Toronto BBQ restaurant vowing to stay open during COVID-19 lockdown:
In the video, Adamson Barbecue owner Adam Skelly said messages from others who support him in this decision gave him motivation to go forward with his plan.
"This is a risky move and you guys gave me the gas to do this," Skelly said in the video.
On Tuesday morning, people could be seen lining up outside the restaurant without masks.
Some were also seen entering the establishment maskless while crowds stood outside protesting against the lockdown measures and chanting "Freedom!"
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked about the restaurateur's vow to keep his doors open to the public amid public health restrictions for the city. He said all business owners must follow the rules in place, including Skelly.
"They have to follow the rules.There can't be rules for one group and not another," he said at a news conference Tuesday.
"I don't condone that he opened up but I feel terrible. My heart breaks for these guys ... these business-owners, believe me," Ford said. "But please, in saying all that, you've got to follow the protocols and guidelines."
Mayor John Tory told reporters on Tuesday warnings are over for those who actively defy rules at this time.
"There has to be respect shown for those laws and regulations by everybody," Tory said.
He said everyone, including those who don't agree with the current restrictions, must follow them to ensure the public's safety.
In response to reporters' questions, Tory also said city staff are investigating after a man seen driving a truck with City of Toronto markings showed support for anti-lockdown protesters outside the restaurant.
The man was seen fist-bumping with the demonstrators and honking in support.
"With respect to the city employee, everyone is entitled to their opinion." Tory said. "I think they should be careful when they're on duty and in city marked trucks as to how they go about expressing their opinions."
In addition, Tory had a message for the restaurateur and any others tempted to follow his lead and defy the lockdown.
"The law enforcement people will make whatever decision they make … but as a general rule we can't have people deciding they're going to take the law into their own hands," the mayor said.
A spokesperson for the city told CBC Toronto it knew of the restaurant's planned opening in advance.
"The city is aware of a restaurant promoting their opening in defiance of provincial orders. Should any business that is prohibited to open do so, appropriate enforcement action will be taken," the spokesperson said in a statement.
In addition to the fine that Adamson Barbecue may face, the city said the restaurant is also under current investigation for compliance with business licensing, zoning, public health, Ontario Building Code and the Ontario Fire Code requirements.
Any individual who violates the province's emergency orders could face fines of $750 to $100,000.
City bylaw enforcement and police are continuing to investigate Adamson Barbecue. The City will have more to say on this matter soon.—@bradrossTO