‘Go Ahead and Do It’: Restaurant Owner Urges Small Businesses to Open After Being Released on $50,000 Bail

November 30, 2020 Updated: December 1, 2020

Adamson Barbecue owner Adam Skelly urged small businesses to “open up” and “fight for freedom” after he was released on bail on Nov. 27.

Asked in an interview on Nov. 28 whether his message to “small business was open no matter what” still stands, Skelly told independent reporter Leigh Stuart he would stand by it.

Skelly was arrested by Toronto police on Nov. 26 after he kept his restaurant open for three days after the city ordered all restaurants to close for the next month. The Ontario government had issued lockdown order on Toronto and Peel Region for 28 days starting Nov. 23, which limits “non-essential” retailers to curbside pickup and online sales. Only businesses considered essential, such as grocers and pharmacies, are open to in-person shopping, with store capacity limited to 50 percent.

Skelly was charged on 13 counts, including attempting to obstruct police, mischief, and trespassing, as well as failure to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act.

“If every business owner make[s] the statement just by opening up one day in protest, not doing anything after it, you will not be arrested, you will not be brought into jail, you will just be fined under the Reopening Ontario Act,” Skelly said, adding that the opening of his restaurant on the third day got him the obstruct charge which led to his arrest and released under bail conditions.

On Nov. 27, Skelly appeared in court via video link and was released after his wife posted $50,000 bail, reported CP24.

The conditions of Skelly’s bail include not to communicate on social media, stay 200 metres away from Adamson Barbecue and his two other businesses, obey the Health Protection Act, and orders from the province’s chief public health officer and regional public health officer. Skelly is also prohibited to operate a business unless it is in accordance with the Reopening Ontario Act.

“The measures in that [Reopening Ontario] Act have to be proportionate and they’re not. They’re disproportionately affecting small businesses,” Skelly said. “So you are well within your rights to open.”

Skelly also said that the GoFundMe campaign, which was set up by supporters and has now garnered over $280,000 to help cover his fines and legal fees, was “not for me” but for every small business “for a group defense.”

“We’re going to have the best lawyers in the country to represent every single business doing this. It’s not for Adamson Barbecue, it’s for small business. Go ahead and do it, open up,” Skelly said.

Meanwhile in Toronto, Derrick Noble, owner of toy shop Nobletoyz has also opened his store on Nov. 28, but said his protest is based on fairness instead of ideology.

“It’s completely pathetic that you can walk into Walmart and buy a toy but you can’t walk into Nobletoyz and buy one,” Noble told The Toronto Sun. “We’re doing this to represent all the small businesses in Bolton, Caledon, and right across Canada who are just trying to feed their families and stay alive.”

Another small business, Salon Trichology Boutique, launched the #ShowYourStatsTO movement on Nov. 27 calling on all hair salons in Toronto to post their own statistics on the number of weeks they have been operating since the first lockdown, number of staff working, number of clients they have served, number of visits and number of COVID cases to prove that “hair salons have proven to be a space that can operate safely.” All salons who have posted reported zero cases.

“The proof is in the stats. SWIPE >>> to see for yourself!,” Trichology posted on Instagram. “It’s a choice to visit your hair stylist. We want to be there for you, but we have no choice but to close our doors—again! It’s time we take a stand & take back our power to choose.”