tj osheas

Toronto bar vows to reopen indoor dining early in protest of Ontario lockdown rules

Owners and staff at Ontario bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms and other businesses that were forced yet again to cease all indoor service earlier in January have understandably grown quite weary of the months of lockdown closures and other public health measures they've had to navigate over the last nearly two years.

And, to some, venting on social media just isn't enough, and nothing else seems to really stick it to the man quite like opening their doors in contravention of governmental orders.

It's something a few establishments in the province have done in the past — and faced a mix of support and censure for — Adamson Barbecue perhaps being the most famous among them for the days-long ordeal owner Adam Skelly put authorities through back in November 2020.

Now, one Etobicoke watering hole has decided that it, too, will open for indoor dining while lockdown orders state that it cannot. But, with the sector due to reopen at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, the move comes hilariously late in this latest stint of stricter public health measures, which started back on Jan. 5 and will have lasted a total of 26 days once lifted.

"In light of what's happening in our country right now we have decided to open our doors on the 29th in protest to the mandates that are keeping us closed," wrote management at T.J. O'Shea's Irish Snug in an Instagram post on Friday.

"This isn’t about being vaxxed or unvaxxed... this is about freedom of choice! Like every small business in our community we have fought so hard to stay open and keep people employed. But we are barely hanging on. With these mandates and lockdowns we are barely breaking even."

If the bar does indeed open as planned for its usual Saturday hours, it would be doing so only 37 hours before it would be legally permitted to under phase 1 of reopening — not quite as dramatic a stand as, say, a few weeks ago.

While O'Shea's management refused to comment to blogTO about their motivations, the date does happen to coincide with some recent chatter online calling for restaurants across Canada to open for full service on Jan. 29 despite whatever restrictions may be in place in their province.

Though some on board with the idea are also calling for owners to disregard vaccine passports and other mandates as part of the demonstration, O'Shea's makes no mention of whether they will be asking patrons for proof of vaccination over the weekend.

But, it does appear that staff will not be enforcing other COVID-related public health measures, such as mask mandates.

"We understand that some of you will be angry and not want to support us... if you choose to come support us we encourage you to make choices that feel best to you," the post ends.

"If you are comfortable wearing a mask, wear one! Don't feel comfortable coming in and want to do takeout? That's fine too! We hold no judgment to anyone. We want you all to choose what's best for you, and that's what we are fighting for, our freedom of choice."

Based on the comments on the announcement so far, there may indeed be quite a turnout when the bar opens at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

People who defy orders under the Reopening Act, if convicted, can face fines of up to $100,000 and a year of jail time for an individual, $500,000 and a year behind bars for a director of a corporation, and a whopping $10,000,000 for a corporation.

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