Six businesses in Toronto charged with disobeying lockdown rules this weekend
Another weekend, another spate of businesses found to be operating in direct contravention of Toronto's pandemic lockdown restrictions, which are currently as strict as they can get per Ontario's colour-coded reopening framework.
The City conducted inspections of non-essential businesses like bars, restaurants and retailers over the weekend, and found six that were not abiding by the city's strict health and safety measures, which prohibit any type of in-person service beyond curbside pickup of takeout and delivery.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, who is helming the City's response to the pandemic, made the revelation at a press briefing on Monday, adding that he was happy to report an overall compliance rate of 96 per cent, and that there were no violations found upon inspection of T.O.'s shopping malls and public parks.
As is usually the case with these announcements, none of the businesses were named, but we now know based on other reporting that one of them was Bar Karma, the Queen West club that was found to have dozens of people partying inside without masks in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The establishment, which replaced long-running neighbourhood watering hole Tequila Bookworm in the spring, also reportedly blacked out its windows and locked its doors to hide the illegal gathering, barring police from entry for about an hour.
Fines are not high enough and no criminal charges. If the owners can recover the fines and then some with the violation, of course they’ll be tempted to open.— Msw Ho (@mhorules) December 14, 2020
In total, six charges were laid under Reopening Ontario Act over the weekend in response to investigations about gatherings on private business property.
The City has ramped up its enforcement of the provincial orders in recent weeks, and does so through proactive inspections and responses to complaints and tips from the public. Formal enforcement action has been taken 1,723 times since the onset of the health crisis.
Establishments can face penalties of $100,000 and jail time of up to one year if convicted for opening in the face of pandemic orders. Still, businesses continue to run the risk weekend after weekend.
Owners eager to open their doors once more will have to wait and see if Toronto gets the green light to progress from the dreaded grey zone to a lesser form of lockdown on Dec. 21.
But, given that nearby York Region moved into to the most severe of the province's lockdown zones this morning and won't be out of it for at least 28 days, that dream seems unlikely.
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