The owner of a Toronto brewery steps away from a barbecue restaurant playing host to anti-lockdown protests over the past few days is voicing his frustration, saying it has negatively impacted his small business.
“It just seems like a complete, diabolical, not-fun event here. You know, a business owner that was permitted to open created all of this… I don’t want to say excitement because it’s not exciting,” Peter Bulut, president and owner of Great Lakes Brewery on a small street near Royal York Road and the Gardiner Expressway, told Global News Friday afternoon.
“It’s disrupted my business and it looks like it’s cost the taxpayers a fortune just with the amount of service and support that’s needed to keep everybody safe.
“We were a little bit nervous too, and I told the staff if you feel unsafe we’ll lock the door up. We don’t need that type of excitement.”
Bulut, who said his business and industry have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, was straight-forward when asked if the protests have helped.
“Not at all. I think it’s completely the opposite. Like I said, it’s a publicity stunt and to get the activists all riled up and anti-maskers and all the things that are — this is not helping small business whatsoever,” he said.
“With the bars and restaurants closed in the city for the sit-down enjoyment, that segment of our business has collapsed completely. So we really rely on the curbside pickup and home delivery and then you can pass through the story in a very safe way.
“That’s what we rely on to keep all 60 people employed here, and with this disruption it’s hard.”
Toronto police closed part of Queen Elizabeth Boulevard due to an influx of vehicles and protesters over the course of the week.
He said customers are still permitted to come to the business if they tell officers, whom he praised for their efforts, they’re there specifically for Great Lakes Brewery.
“But I know myself, if I saw a barricade, I would just turn around. I’m not going to go find out what’s going on,” he said, noting officers have been tracking people entering to ensure they are indeed going to the brewery.
Thursday was supposed to be a release day of new brews, but Bulut said the estimated number of people expected to attend to get beer was potentially down by 70 per cent.
“It’s the ones that got intimidated by the line or, you know, nervous about coming down,” he said.
Adam Skelly, the owner of Adamson Barbecue, is facing several criminal charges after repeatedly breaking health regulations imposed by Toronto and Ontario.
Police said on Thursday they had changed the locks of the restaurant in the morning, after Toronto’s medical officer of health said the establishment must be closed under several health and safety regulations.
As an act of good faith, police said they allowed Skelly into a back area of the restaurant this afternoon but they say he broke through an interior wall to access the dining area and then damaged the city-installed locks. He was later arrested and charged. A protester, Michael Belito Arana, was also charged after Skelly was taken into custody.
Skelly and Arana appeared in a Toronto court on Friday. Skelly was released from 23 Division on $50,000 bail Friday evening and was required to attend court on Jan. 4. He told reporters one of his bail conditions is to not use his social media accounts while questioning being in custody for 30 hours. Arana was released on $500 bail and required to attend court on Jan. 11.
Cal Rosemond, an attorney for Skelly, said Skelly will be “represented in a fulsome way” and that he looks forward “to engaging with these allegations.”
Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region are in lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the two hot spots. A ban on indoor dining at restaurants is one of the rules under Ontario’s COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
Skelly posted on Instagram that he intended to reopen the restaurant Monday morning in direct opposition to the province’s public health restrictions. He again reopened on Tuesday and Wednesday, leading the city’s medical officer of health to take possession of the property.
Bulut, who noted he hasn’t met Skelly, praised the barbecue restaurant itself and said not all of the activists “came down to cause trouble or harm.” But he said he is struggling to understand the nature of these particular protests.
“He has takeout food. He’s got great food. You could go there and shop. So I don’t understand if he’s taking a stance for the guys on Queensway? There’s been no reference to specific other businesses like a hair salon, so what’s the purpose other than getting the activists all riled up? I don’t understand,” he said.
“I think if he was a business that could not open, it would make much more sense if you want to take a stand like, ‘No, I think I should open. Here are my safety protocols’ and stuff.”
— With files from The Canadian Press