Toronto Restaurateur who Defied Lockdown Closure Receives $187,000 Bill for Police Costs

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Owner Adam Skelly of Adamson Barbecue, an Etobicoke business that has defied provincial shutdown orders, outside his restaurant in Toronto, Canada, on November 25, 2020.

The City of Toronto has hit the owner of a restaurant who defied Ontario’s draconian lockdown measures in November with a $187,000 bill, claiming the City needs to recoup the costs of enforcing Premier Doug Ford’s COVID-19 lockdown orders. Adam Skelly and his restaurant Adamson Barbecue were served a demand letter for the sum by City lawyers, as confirmed by city spokesperson Brad Ross to CP24 on Monday.

In November of 2020, Skelly announced he would defy Doug Ford’s 28-day lockdown order. The order has been a source of public consternation as it led to the forced closure of small businesses while simultaneously allowing big box retail brands, such as Costco and its food court only 300 meters away from Adamson Barbecue, to continue to operate. “For anybody who is a fan of freedom and sovereignty, the right to choose what you wear, where to go, who to have over at your house, what businesses you can go to, I would love to meet you,” said Skelly in an Instagram video posted before he decided to open up. 

Skelly told Rebel News in an interview after opening his doors, “When everybody stands up and says ‘enough is enough,’ that’s when we’re going to see this end,” he said about being forced by the government to close and continually build up debt.

Protesters and Police officers gather at Adamson Barbecue, an Etobicoke business that has defied provincial shutdown orders, in Toronto, Canada, on November 25, 2020. Owner Adam Skelly said he had nothing left to lose by re-opening, due to  financial distress caused by Premier Doug Ford’s constant lockdown measures. (Photo by COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Adamson Barbecue Rebellion

Rebel News extensively covered what they coined as the “BBQ Rebellion,” documenting Toronto Police and City of Toronto Bylaw Enforcement’s frequent visits to the restaurant. Skelly’s defiance of pandemic measures brought hundreds of customers to his storefront, demonstrating widespread public support of the stand Skelly and his business took against the province’s measures. 

Three days later, Toronto Police theatrically stormed the premises with cruisers and on horseback, arrested Skelly, and summoned a locksmith to change the locks so he could not re-enter.

Before the arrest, Rebel asked Skelly if he was afraid of the consequences of defying government orders and he said “Why would I be fearful of what’s going to happen? This business probably won’t make it through the wintertime anyway, so I’ve got nothing to fear.”

Canada’s left wing media called Skelly’s rebellion “White Privilege in Action,” saying “Rather than pivoting to a takeout or delivery model, or organizing to lobby the government to change its rules, Skelly decided the law was wrong and he was right, so he would just ignore the rules and open his Etobicoke restaurant for indoor dining anyway.”

The Huffington Post article ignores the economic realities Canada’s restaurants face. The “takeout or delivery model” for Canadian eateries is reliance on the popular Skip the Dishes app, which takes a 40 percent cut of the bill on each order. 

The hyperbole of Skelly’s economic-influenced protest was amplified by left-wing social media influencers, such as Maaz Khan, a digital content creator who produces pieces for the Toronto International Film Festival, who tweeted, “If I was the owner of Adamson BBQ and I opened despite the restrictions and no business license, I would be dragged out, arrested, in jail and fined within minutes! This is beyond ridiculous!”

Billed for Toronto Police presence

As the situation evolved, it was revealed at a press conference with Toronto Police representative Supt. Domenic Sinopoli the order to close Adamson Barbecue did not come from a warrant issued by a Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, but from an elected official, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, “Last night, we received an order from Justice — sorry — Dr. de Villa essentially giving us power under the — or her power — under the Health Protection Act to seize the property, which she has done,” said Sinopoli.

A Nov. 28 article in the Toronto Sun revealed Toronto Police kept officers at Adamson Barbecue, paying them out of the City’s coffers rather than the police budget, as if they were hired to work a private event like a hockey game, “After a week of deployed officers and even a dozen horses, a late development Friday was that cops were expected to stay on guard overnight, hired as a pay duty officers by the City of Toronto rather than being paid for out of the police budget.”

These expenditures are included in the $187,000 bill the City seeks to reclaim from Skelly, who crowdfunded more than $330,000 from the Canadian public on GoFundMe, as the vast majority of the bill is composed of more than $165,000 in police expenditures.  

The Sun remarked, “Police officers shouldn’t be used as de Villa’s de facto muscle for orders to seize a business based on new emergency laws and unprecedented actions that need to be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary.”

On Feb. 20, before being hit with the bill from the City of Toronto, Skelly announced at a press conference that he would be challenging Ontario’s lockdown, which has been in force in perpetuity and will continue until at least Mar. 8, in the province’s Superior Court. 

Cara Zwibel, Director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told CP24 she was concerned about the government’s move to have a private citizen pay for the government’s law enforcement costs incurred in the closure of his own business and arrest, “… this is what police do, they enforce the law and keep the peace, that’s the cost of doing business as a municipality.”

Zwibel added that the issue has come up on Canadian university campuses in the past, “The universities will sometimes say ‘well, there’s going to be a big reaction to that and so we’re going to need security, and so you’re going to have to pay for it.’”

“I would say it’s not appropriate to have to pay to exercise your constitutionally protected right to protest,” said Zwibel.

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