Hamilton to begin ‘naming and shaming’ businesses that break COVID-19 rules

The city of Hamilton will soon begin naming businesses that are fined for not complying with COVID-19 rules. Don Mitchell / Global News

The City of Hamilton will soon begin publicly releasing the names of businesses that break coronavirus-related rules.

The city doesn’t currently release the names of businesses fined under provincial and municipal COVID-19 laws — something that came to light over the weekend when a Stoney Creek restaurant broke those rules and was fined $3,000, but not identified.

Speaking during Wednesday’s city council meeting, Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark says that’s not fair.

“It’s not fair that we have all of these other businesses and restaurants and companies that are following the rules, doing everything they can to follow the rules and comply, and then their next-door neighbour is a scofflaw, who is ignoring the rules, doing what they want and getting away with it.”

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Clark brought forward a motion that called on city staff to begin releasing upon request the names of those businesses that are charged for not following COVID-19 rules.

It was amended to allow for that information to be accessible to the public via a portal or posting on the city’s website, and passed unanimously.

Speaking on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show on Thursday morning, Clark said the fines aren’t effective enough on their own to get certain businesses to comply with the laws.

He said the fines have become a cost associated with doing business for those rule-breakers.

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“A $3,000 fine for a restaurant to operate almost like a full restaurant and allow people in, and all the money that they’re making, it just offsets that fine. It’s literally a cost of doing business. ‘OK, I got fined, here’s your money,’ and then they continue doing what they’re doing.

“So the only way to make sure that these restaurants are going to come into compliance with all of the other restaurants who are in compliance is to name them.”

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During the city’s COVID-19 media briefing on Monday, the director of Hamilton’s emergency operations centre said the way this particular restaurant was flaunting the rules was “beyond the pale.”

“I understand human error, but to not have any contact tracing information being collected at an establishment, to not have masks being warned, to have people singing and dancing and carrying on as though nothing is going on in our community is entirely disappointing,” said Paul Johnson.

Councillors, who unanimously supported Clark’s motion during Wednesday’s meeting, said residents ought to know which businesses are breaking the rules so they can choose where to dine safely.

“I wouldn’t eat somewhere that didn’t pass the health and safety requirements for food handling and likewise, I’m not going anywhere near a business that hasn’t passed the same requirements for COVID,” said Ward 8 Coun. John-Paul Danko. “And I think it’s really important to give our residents an opportunity to make that choice.”

Ward 2’s Jason Farr agreed.

“I don’t like the idea of pointing fingers, but man, if we have to, and it’s effective, this is about public safety, in my opinion.”

The new policy is expected to be up and running by Monday.

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While it won’t apply retroactively to businesses that have already been fined, Clark said he plans on pursuing a Freedom of Information request to make the name of that particular Stoney Creek restaurant public.

He said it ought to be named, whether by city staff or by another method, because it was a “catalyst” for this new policy.

“If they don’t name the name, then I will file a formal request, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll go to council and ask council to support the naming of that business. They should be named. They caused all of this work for our bylaw staff and for council, and this entire bylaw that is before us now came about because of their negligence.”

The city’s director of licensing and bylaw services said they’re beginning to take a more proactive approach to enforcement of the provincial and municipal COVID-19 laws in an attempt to crack down on non-compliance.

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