south branch bistro

Ontario restaurant stripped of liquor licence after hosting anti-lockdown event

The South Branch Bistro, a small restaurant in the unassuming Ontario town of Kemptville, is the latest establishment to open up and host diners in defiance of the provincial shutdown that has been in effect for just over a week now.

Known lockdown critic and MPP Randy Hillier was among the dozens in attendance at an event at the bistro on Thursday evening, where crowds were drinking and dining maskless both indoors and on a back patio.

The gathering apparently kicked off with a mask burning party hosted by Hillier, a controversial independent representing Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, and No More Lockdowns Canada.

Ontario Provincial Police officers and public health who arrived on the scene were edged off the property by the group, which was all the while chanting "freedom," "no more lockdowns," and "get out."

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO) has immediately suspended the restaurant's liquor license as a result of the function, as well as repeat offences the following day, noting that those on the premises "were not socially distanced and most, including staff and children, were not wearing masks."

The decision was made "for reasons of public interest and safety," the commission, which is now moving to permanently rescind the establishment's license, added in a release.

Fines are apparently also on the way for the business, which posted a long missive about provincial lockdown measures and its decision to host the event in an Instagram caption after-the-fact.

"We understand your concerns but it's time for us to take care of our family & staff. It's been a whole year since the government and health bureaucrats shut down restaurants based on false projections," management wrote.

"There's no evidence that restaurants are spreading COVID. Lockdowns have taken a massive toll on our mental health, bank account and livelihoods...  We were faced with two choices: stay open to feed our family, or close for good. We opted for the former than the latter."

Kemptville, about four hours northeast of Toronto near Ottawa, is in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, which reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 on April 10, making for a cumulative case rate of 804.4 per 100,000 residents — thankfully lower than most other regions in the province.

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