The city of Toronto is seeking to recover the $ 187,000 it says it spent to force an Etobicoke barbecue restaurant into compliance with public health lockdowns.
Police were repeatedly called to the Adamson BBQ in Etobicoke last November after restaurant owner Adam Skelly openly defied lockdown measures and allowed in-person meals. Dozens of Skelly supporters and anti-lockdown protesters swarmed police at the scene, and city officials were forced to change locks to keep the restaurant in line with public health orders.
Skelly has been charged with both felony and non-felony trespassing, intent to obstruct police, violating indoor catering rules, holding an illegal assembly and operating a business without license.
In December, the city sent a formal notice demanding that Skelly pay for the execution, according to spokesman Brad Ross, who noted that Skelly had not yet responded to the city’s letter.
Skelly took to Instagram this weekend, however. Based on a screenshot of her feed shared by attorney Caryma Sa’d, Skelly wrote, “Here’s the invoice Toronto sent me,” and included a yes / no poll asking people to he had to pay it.
Skelly has raised over $ 337,000 for his legal defense through crowdfunding.
In a virtual press conference, Skelly said the city’s letter gave her until December 31, 2020 to pay. However, he said he was skeptical that the city would take him to court to get an order from a judge to force him to pay.
Ross said the city intended to do just that.
“There were very real costs associated with enforcing public health orders to remain closed,” he said.
“By choosing not to comply with these orders, we have had to take enforcement action and there are costs associated with that.”
WATCH | Police arrest Etobicoke barbecue owner
Sa’d, the Toronto lawyer who first shared the screenshot, said that while it is “tempting to want to see someone suffer the direct consequences of their actions,” she is concerned about possible ramifications of cities shifting police costs onto individuals or groups.
“I don’t want this to be used as a weapon against groups at large, which is why it will be important to precede with caution and specificity,” Sa’d told TBEN News.
Her concerns were echoed by others on Twitter, including Dana Larsen, a cannabis reform activist in Vancouver.
“If he committed a crime, blame him. But the police sending invoices to people seems a mistake to me,” wrote Larsen, who added that the Vancouver 420 rally was “harassed every year when the cops provided a inflated and unpayable bill for police services. [the rally]. “
Those 420 rallies cost the city and its park board of directors $ 245,379 in 2017 and $ 235,666 in 2018, according to a spokesperson for the city of Vancouver. In 2018, organizers sent checks over $ 63,000 to help cover some of those costs.
In 2019, Vancouver City Council even considered suing organizers in an attempt to recover full costs. Larsen told TBEN News nothing had happened.
Poor BBQ Dude Bro. Police are not cheap 😬 pic.twitter.com/i73b0DhnQs
We would be hassled every year when the cops provide a bloated, unpayable bill for our 4/20 rally police, as if you were only allowed to protest and rally publicly if you paid the cops $ 100,000 + to stay and watching you. do it.
Skelly’s bill is not about protests, Ross said, “This is about someone opening a business in violation of provincial decrees and regulations to stay closed during a public health emergency.”
Still, the distinction between protests and corporate operations needs to be unpacked, Sa’d said, adding that “to some extent they are inextricably linked in this particular case.”
While Ross can’t think of another example of a Toronto company receiving this type of bill during the pandemic, he said the attempt to recover costs was “neither unusual nor unique.”
Ross compared the lockdown bill to residents who do not clear snow off their sidewalks as the law requires.
“If you don’t, the city has to, and if you don’t, we’ll pass it [cost] on… usually through your tax bill, ”he says.
Sa’d said she was “taken aback” by the figure sent to Skelly.
“Looks like the city isn’t holding back any punches in its approach,” she said.
“Even though this is accurate bookkeeping,” Sa’d added, “I think there are questions that should be raised as to how what appears to be such an inflated number is the balance. final. There must be some accountability for those Numbers. “