Restaurant owner Petrolia issued three COVID tickets – .

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Tom Stoukas told provincial inspectors at his restaurant he was too busy to deal with them amid the Friday night hustle and bustle.

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“Come back on Monday,” recalled the owner and chef of Athena’s Diner restaurant in Petrolia. “Then they came back a few hours later, snuck in and dropped the envelope and left. “

That envelope contained three separate tickets for $ 880 each, Stoukas said. The Sarnia resident said he wasn’t sure what they were for – “I can’t read the guy’s handwriting, so I asked the lawyers to look at it” – but he went on to say saying he was against the requirement of proof of vaccination certain industries, such as restaurants, were instructed to apply.

“So far I have adhered to all (COVID) protocols,” Stoukas said of the lockdown, installing panels and enforcing physical distancing and wearing a mask. “The vax pass is – that’s where I draw the line. “

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The chef’s ticket trio arrived amid a three-day blitz of restaurants, recreation facilities and other businesses across Sarnia-Lambton required to ask customers for proof of COVID-19 vaccination before their entry, in accordance with Ontario rules. The Nov. 4-6 campaign involved public health workers from Lambton, the City of Sarnia and the province who conducted 164 inspections and laid five charges under Ontario’s Reopening Act, confirmed the local health unit and an Ontario spokesperson.

Mike Gorgey, director of health promotion for the local health unit, said a “multi-departmental team” of provincial offenses officers – including ministries of labor, finance and transportation, as well as a group only dedicated to law enforcement – issued the tickets. The five counts were handed over to two operators, whose identities were not available because the health unit was not involved in issuing the tickets, Gorgey said.

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Stoukas, however, said he was one of them.

“I’m not paying anything,” he said, adding that he planned to fight fines in court. “They can give me a $ 100,000 fine, I don’t care. This is a joke. “

Kalem McSween, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor, Training and Skills Development, said data from recent inspections in Sarnia-Lambton shows that the “vast majority” of businesses are following the rules.

“However, at the officer’s discretion, companies found to be in non-compliance may face a fine of $ 1,000 or a penalty of up to $ 10,000,000,” he said. by email.

Gorgey said inspectors were looking for “everything” under Ontario’s Reopening Act, not just checking customers for proof of two doses of an approved vaccine.

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“Hiding, implementing a security plan – all of those departmental requirements,” Gorgey said.

McSween said all businesses should follow health and safety requirements related to COVID-19.

“The purpose of these visits is to help workers and the public stay safe and keep businesses open,” he wrote.

Gorgey said inspectors did not ask customers for proof of vaccination.

“It is a responsibility of the operator,” he said.

But, he added, they could track customers to see if staff asked to see their documents before being allowed in. Other tactics involved asking owners and staff what their process is for checking it out and watching it in action from inside or outside the premises.

“There are a number of mechanisms that allow a law enforcement professional to check whether someone is doing something or not,” Gorgey said.

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The health unit sent a reminder to local businesses on Nov. 2 – two days before the blitz – to enforce Ontario’s proof of vaccination requirements.

Sudit Ranade, Lambton’s medical officer of health, said the health unit had heard “some concerns” via phone calls and social media about certain settings not enforcing the rules.

“So we’re just following that as a general message to say that these are the rules that the province has put in place and we want you to follow them,” he said.

Stoukas, however, said he felt “sick” by asking them.

“I’m not going to participate in this,” he said. “I don’t even care about the money. It is a matter of principle.

Gorgey was unsure if there would be another coordinated blitz with the province, but noted that local staff would still be on site regularly.

“Compliance is always the expectation,” he said.

Stoukas said he had not seen an inspector since Friday, but was ready when they returned.

“I expect them to do it,” he said.

[email protected]

@ObservateurTerry

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