A GoFundMe campaign set up in support of Adamson Barbecue owner Adam Skelly has raised over $150,000 to cover his fines and legal fees, after he was arrested for repeatedly defying pandemic lockdown orders to keep his Etobicoke restaurant open.
Over 2,600 donors had contributed to the campaign by Friday morning, which called on supporters “to help Adam fight for our freedoms,” as tensions run high amid increased pandemic restrictions.
Skelly’s arrest on Nov. 26 followed three days of his stance against rules ordering restaurants to close in Toronto for the next month. The provincial government ordered Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region into lockdown for 28 days starting Nov. 23, limiting "non-essential" retailers to curbside pickup and online sales. Only businesses considered essential, such as grocers and pharmacies, are open to in-person shopping, and store capacity is limited to 50 percent.
Skelly said he decided to keep his business open because Ontario Premier Doug Ford had not provided evidence requested by industry associations showing restaurants are a major point of transmission for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. He also accused the province of a double standard in allowing large corporations to stay open while small businesses were forced to close.
"I complied with the two weeks to flatten the curve. I complied again during the 'second wave' when we locked down, when Doug Ford promised us that there would be supporting evidence to shut down the restaurants, bars and gyms," Skelly said in an Instagram video posted on Nov. 23.
"The data from Toronto Public Health shows that two of the over 10,000 Ontario COVID deaths were linked to bars, restaurants and retail. So why are we getting we getting singled out? And the big multinational corporations are all essential while they're packed?"
After opening his restaurant for in-person dining on Nov. 24, authorities charged Kelly with bylaw and public-health infractions. The City of Toronto closed the restaurant that afternoon because it said the owner was providing both indoor and outdoor dine-in service with many patrons not wearing masks or practicing physical distancing.
Skelly again reopened on Nov. 25, which prompted police early the next morning to change the locks on the restaurant and seize the establishment. On Nov. 26, amid dozens of patrons and supporters, Skelly was arrested by police after defying an order to vacate the restaurant.
The 13 charges laid against Skelly include attempting to obstruct police, mischief, and trespassing. He is also charged with failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act. He is set to appear in court for a bail hearing today.
Small business owners across Canada are facing increased pressure as new pandemic restrictions in many provinces coincide with peak holiday shopping season, which many businesses depend on to see them through the year.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimated earlier in the year that 160,000 businesses across the country may permanently close due to COVID-19. It now believes that number could climb all the way to 225,000 if restrictions persist.
With files from The Canadian Press