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Coronavirus: N.S. restaurant owner says he was charged after anti-restriction rant

Click to play video 'Health officials investigating a Halifax-area restaurant' Health officials investigating a Halifax-area restaurant
Complaints have been registered about staff at a restaurant in Halifax not being required to wear masks. Graeme Benjamin has more. – Jan 9, 2021

The owner of a Lower Sackville restaurant says he was charged after an interaction with Health Protection Act enforcement officers regarding mask use at the restaurant.

John Giannakos, the owner of Hellas Family Restaurant, came under fire earlier this week for calling customers inquiring about mask use “sheeple.”

In a Facebook post on Friday, the restaurant responded to criticism from customer allegations that employees were not following mandatory masking regulations for indoor establishments aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“To all you SHEEPLE, thank you for all your comments, it is the greatest free publicity,” the post read.

Read more: Lower Sackville restaurant under fire after allegedly ignoring Public Health guidelines

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Hellas Restaurant was on the radar of provincial health officials. During Friday’s COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said he was aware of the conflict and an investigation was underway.

That day, Giannakos also posted a YouTube video of his interaction with two RCMP officers and a health inspector who visited the restaurant.

Saturday night, the restaurant posted on Facebook that a charge was laid.

“I was fined yesterday when my bandana slipped below my big nose and landed on my lip,” the post read. “Face covering must always cover nose down to chin. Ouch ,$$four figure fine.”

The post also says he received messages from supportive community members, “with 95% approval.”

However, the comment section under the post contains hundreds of comments denouncing the restaurant owner’s actions.

“Your actions and being so irresponsible will likely make you lose your business. I will never, ever eat there again,” one comment read.

Read more: Halifax restaurants prepare to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions lift Monday

Another YouTube video posted Saturday, featuring Giannakos, claims he was fined “because someone complained.” In the video, Giannakos claims there isn’t enough information available on COVID-19 and expresses distrust in federal and provincial governments.

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The video also includes a photo of the ticket Giannakos says he was issued.

The offence on the ticket reads the person failed to comply with a part of the Health Protection Act, “all person must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth while present in a public place.”

The ticket carries a fine of $1,000.

A screenshot of a YouTube video posted from an account used by John Giannakos, the owner of Hellas Restaurant in Lower Sackville. YouTube / John G

Indoor establishments, such as bars, restaurants and public facilities reopened to the public on Monday. As part of the reopening rules, mask use is mandatory for all customers and staff, unless they are sitting at a table.

Global News has reached out to the RCMP and the province to confirm the charge.

Hellas Restaurant was closed on Sunday.

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— With files from Graeme Benjamin.