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Police chief issues warning to Ezra Avenue partygoers over COVID-19: ‘We’re not fooling around’

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Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin has issued a warning to anyone who may consider attending an unsanctioned street party on Ezra Avenue this year in spite of the state of emergency declared by the province in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re not fooling around,” he told Global News on Tuesday morning. “I want to be very direct that we’re prepared to take enforcement action.

READ MORE: Waterloo police chief asks public not to attend Ezra Avenue St. Paddy’s Day party

“We’re prepared to issue notice and we’re prepared to issue court judicial system processes.”

Larkin says that as of 10:30 a.m., there has been very little activity in the area, which normally would have already started to see gatherings.

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“As of 10:30, our operational team is not reporting of any congregations, any challenges, any house parties,” he explained. “We believe that people are recognizing that the issue of COVID[-19] and the potential health crisis on our health-care system is significant.

READ MORE: What’s closed, cancelled in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge amid coronavirus outbreak

“And so, to this point, we’re not experiencing any challenges.”

Local officials were already working to put an end to the party, which saw 33,000 people congregate at its peak last year, closing Ezra and Bricker avenues.

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He says there are other actions in place as well, including billboards and officers at the scene with bullhorns.

Larkin says the billboards note “that it is the state of emergency that they do not attend.”

St. Patrick’s Day is usually a big day for area restaurants and bars as well.

READ MORE: Ontario government declares state of emergency amid coronavirus pandemic

On Tuesday morning, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, which closed all restaurants and bars provincewide aside from those offering takeout and delivery.

The Waterloo police chief said he has held discussions with the province about how this will be enforced.

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“It would also allow us, under the Liquor Control Act, to shut down the premises, et cetera,” he explained. “And then if people are gathering, it allows us to take dispersal action. We can lay charges, we can lay provincial offence notices and summon them to court.”

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