As patrons packed the Adamson BBQ in Etobicoke on Tuesday, proudly defying provincial and municipal rules not to eat inside during the lockdown, city law enforcement and Toronto police did nothing to prevent the long line of customers from entering.
Owner Adam Skelly has pledged on social media to open on Tuesday as usual, creating the first major public test of the new COVID-19 measures that went into effect on Monday.
Restaurants are allowed to offer take-out and deliveries, but are not allowed to have indoor or outdoor dining in Toronto under the lockdown measures imposed by the province for at least the next 28 days.
After the restaurant served customers for nearly two hours, Insp. Tim Crone told reporters the restaurant was open illegally, but officers would not come in to evacuate the dinners.
“It is not allowed to stay open and again this will be part of the investigation and enforcement action will likely be taken later this week,” Crone said. “But obviously, given the large number of people who are here right now, we don’t have the capacity to come in and physically remove everyone at this point and it would be dangerous to do so.
Public health and law enforcement officials investigated, Crone said, with police at the scene to “ensure public safety” and support city officials.
Shortly after the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. for business, two law enforcement officers, a public health inspector and two uniformed police officers could be seen entering the site on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard to talk to employees, including a restless Skelly.
Skelly, who yelled at reporters to stay outside his property and warmly greeted guests, then walked out of the Texas BBQ store saying he had not been fined and refused to speak further to a journalist.
City spokesman Brad Ross said there was still an “active investigation,” and staff hoped to have more to say on Tuesday afternoon.
Carleton Grant, who heads the city’s law enforcement unit, said Tuesday morning that plans to open the restaurant had come to his attention “from a number of inside sources.”
He then said municipal licensing, public health and police officials were planning to visit the restaurant.
“If this or any other prohibited establishment does so, appropriate enforcement action will be taken,” Grant said in an email.
Premier Doug Ford – who previously called people attending parties in violation of pandemic regulations “reckless” or “bunch of yahoos” – took a more moderate tone on Tuesday about Adamson’s situation .
“I can’t get mad at a businessman right now,” Premier Doug Ford said of the Adamson BBQ in Etobicoke, saying everyone should follow the rules.
“I just want the guy to shut down,” said Ford, who is taking the heat for lockdown measures that are forcing non-essential small businesses in Toronto and Peel to close while Walmart and Costco stay open because they sell food and drugstore items.
“I’m not going to get up here and start hitting a small business owner when the guy is hanging on by his fingernails,” the Prime Minister added. “My heart is extinguished.”
But Ford has reinforced the importance of following public health protocols with new cases of COVID-19 averaging 1,395 per day last week, near all-time highs.
“If everyone’s doing what they’re doing… you’re going to ask me another question when we start processing 2,000 or 3,000 cases a day. This is the last thing we want. “
Mayor John Tory also took a more moderate tone, telling reporters that everyone has the right to protest and that he is not running the app.
“Law enforcement officials will make whatever decision they make … but as a general rule, we cannot let people decide that they are going to take justice into their own hands,” he said.
“This is a duly adopted regulation put in place by the Government of Ontario to help fight a very acute health pandemic, COVID-19, and it is important that everyone show respect for these laws and regulations.
He reiterated that he believed the time for warnings was over and that the city should “record a serious message regarding the violation of the law.”
Coun. Mark Grimes, who represents the area, was outside the restaurant on Tuesday.
“It’s a relatively new restaurant, it opened a few months ago. So either this guy is the smartest guy or the dumbest guy. I think it might be a publicity stunt, I’m not too sure, ”Grimes said.
“It’s a little worrying that some people don’t want to follow the rules.”
Outside the painted white building, a crowd scene began to form shortly before the doors opened with customers – most wearing no masks and little social distancing. A few shouted repeated vitriol at reporters, some using megaphones.
A man, who declined to give his name, claimed the COVID-19 test was a ‘lie’ and that the opening was not at all dangerous, instead criticizing reporters for posting ‘false evidence’ .
Another man, who also declined to give his full name, admitted that eating inside was potentially dangerous, but said he was defending his right and the rights of others to choose for themselves.
“People can get sick, I say, but it’s people’s choice. It is a free country. Give me freedom or give me death, ”said the second man.
Some wore Guy Fawkes masks and cheered as cars passing the largely industrial strip next to the Gardiner Expressway passed to honk in support.
One was a branded city of Toronto truck, the driver of which punched several protesters. Ross, the city spokesperson, said the employee was not a regulations officer and that they were investigating.
Skelly posted a video on the Texas BBQ Restaurant’s official Instagram on Monday telling subscribers that the new Etobicoke location will open for an indoor dinner “against provincial orders” starting at 11 a.m.
“For those of you who have eyes to see why I’m doing this, thank you guys so much,” Skelly said.
“It’s a risky decision and you gave me the gas to do it. “
Without any evidence, Skelly suggested on Instagram that the number of COVID-19 cases had been exaggerated, that tests of ineffective and non-essential companies had been unnecessarily closed. He claimed that “this thing” – he does not specify what exactly – “stinks, smells of corruption”.
” Enough is enough. We open. For all of you who love freedom and sovereignty, the right to choose what you wear, where to go, who to have in your home, what businesses you can go to, I would like to meet you tomorrow.
This is not the first time Skelly has questioned the impact of the virus, coming under fire earlier this year for online comments and vitriolic directed at critics, Global News reported. Skelly later apologized.