buck and jos wingham

Ontario restaurant threatens mask-wearing patrons with trespassing charges

Something pretty outrageous is happening in a small, quaint Ontario town a couple of hours west of Toronto: A restaurant in Wingham is generating buzz for openly defying public health orders, even going so far as to ban those wearing face coverings.

No, you aren't misreading that. Amid skyrocketing case counts, this restaurant is kicking out patrons for wearing masks.

After previously being forced to close for defiance of health orders, and on the eve of new restrictions that will shut down indoor dining across the province, Buck and Jo's is opening back up for one day on Jan. 4th, and the restaurant is making no efforts to hide its blatant disregard for public health in the process.

This reopening comes with a bizarrely-worded announcement that calls out "sheeple" and seeks the support of "patriots" to "increase awareness regarding government overreach."

Probably the most controversial part of the bold reopening announcement is the part warning customers that "due to the prevalence of fake segregation enforcement officers in the area and countless threats toward staff and the building, masks are no longer allowed to be used on premises at Buck & Jo's."

The statement goes on to say that, while patrons do have the right to wear a mask, the restaurant has "to take necessary steps to protect staff from pro mandate/dictatorship extremists."

So what happens if you want to visit the restaurant before new indoor dining restrictions take effect on Wednesday and decide that you want to keep your mask on?

Buck & Jo's has stated that "if you insist on wearing a mask you will be trespassing and be treated as such, and dealt with under the protection of section 40 of the Criminal Code of Canada."

The statement closes out with some alarmingly militaristic language, saying that "If you want to take your country back, it starts with taking your own lives back first. Then we need to take back our country one street corner at a time if necessary."

On top of the many issues the restaurant may face action for, it could prove a self-destructive move to announce to the masses a refusal to charge patrons taxes, regardless of the popularity you might gain with the anti-establishment crowd.

It seems the business is also banning firearms from the premises in an effort to prevent police from entering.

And this is only the latest in a long series of public complaints and bold actions taken by the restaurant in response to public health guidelines and restrictions.

The restaurant first gained notoriety for a high-profile sign welcoming patrons regardless of vaccination status, openly voicing defiance to public health measures, and for orchestrating a series of in-restaurant stunts that seemed designed to taunt enforcement officers and rally support from the far-right "freedom" crowd.

Things escalated when an October confrontation with public health and police officers was captured on video, the inspection undoubtedly leading to Huron-Perth Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Miriam Klassen, issuing a Section 22 order against Buck and Jo's on Nov. 5.

When the business failed to comply with the order, Huron-Perth ordered the restaurant closed in mid-November. You'd logically think that's where the story ends, but trying to use logic to determine the restaurant's next moves has proven to be an exercise in futility.

Even before the pandemic exposed the restaurant management's opinions to public criticism, Buck and Jo's owner Stephen Hill has demonstrated previous disregard for municipal authority.

Hill claimed he was "being treated differently than other businesses" when his restaurant found itself in hot water back in 2019 over renovations carried out without approval.

Lead photo by Buck & Jo's

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