Municipal officials are cracking down on businesses flouting public-health rules in Toronto and Peel Region, as the 28-day lockdown that began on Monday has forced many storefronts in those areas to close temporarily.
Many small business owners have bristled at the provincial regulations, which allow big-box retailers selling groceries to remain open during the lockdown. In Toronto and Peel, restaurants can only offer delivery or takeout, and non-essential retail stores must close in-person shopping.
On Monday, the City of Mississauga charged two restaurants, a sports facility and a barbershop for disobeying regulations. Those businesses could face a $750 fine. The City of Brampton has received 19 complaints against businesses since the lockdown began. Both cities are in Peel.
The City of Toronto did not provide any data. Mayor John Tory told reporters that he feels it is time to get serious about enforcing the rules.
“The time for warnings for business operators and for individual citizens is over,” he said. “I just think that the stakes are high enough here in terms of serious illness and life and death matters that the law has to be taken seriously.”
The most visible rejection of regulations came from the Etobicoke location of Adamson Barbecue, a popular restaurant with three locations in the Greater Toronto Area. Owner Adam Skelly opened his doors to eat-in diners on Tuesday, with many not wearing masks.
“Why are we getting singled out and the big multinational corporations are essential, and they’re packed,” Mr. Skelly said in an Instagram video on Monday.
“We’re opening for anyone who’s a fan of freedom and sovereignty.”
The City of Toronto ordered the restaurant closed on Monday afternoon.
“This establishment opened its doors to patrons for dine-in eating in contravention of the law that is designed to protect people from the spread of COVID-19,” a news release from the city said.
The city is also investigating the location for compliance with business licensing, zoning, public health, building code and fire code requirements.
Asked on Tuesday about Adamson Barbecue opening its doors, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he couldn’t be critical of business owners but asked that everyone follow public-health rules.
“I can’t get angry at any business person. They’re hurting right now. And they’re struggling, and they’re doing everything they can to stay afloat. If we let everyone open, we’re going to be in worse shape,” he said.
“I don’t condone that he opened up, but, you know, I feel terrible. My heart breaks for these guys and it’s not fair. But please, in saying all that, you’ve got to follow the protocols and the guidelines.”
Large retailers are also trying to stay open. At Banana Republic in midtown Toronto’s Stockyards Mall, supervisor Andrea Macpherson said on Tuesday that the store is open to customers because it sells masks and winter clothing. She said Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Gap, made the decision to stay open.
“Our head office gave us the okay to do this,” she said.
At Old Navy in Mississauga’s Square One mall, a store manager said the location received a warning from the city after allowing in-person shopping on Monday. She says the store is now only open for curbside pickup. The manager is not being identified because she was not authorized to speak publicly.
Gap Inc. did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
On Monday, Hudson’s Bay department store on Queen Street in downtown Toronto remained open, despite the provincial orders. Tiffany Bourré, a spokeswoman for The Bay, said the company believed it could open the location because there is a small grocery store in the basement. But the government said the regulation only applies to discount and big-box retailers, such as Costco and Walmart, that have a “full grocery store,” and that The Bay and Ikea are not included. Ms. Bourré said on Tuesday that all The Bay stores in Toronto and Peel will now offer only curbside pickup.
With a report from Laura Stone
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