Kemptville, Ont. restaurant to open for ‘mask burning party’ amid COVID-19 lockdown

Click to play video: 'Kemptville pub opens and defies provincial lockdown' Kemptville pub opens and defies provincial lockdown
Provincial police estimate as many as 200 people show up. M.P.P. Randy Hillier and members of No More Lockdowns Canada attend the gathering.

A Kemptville restaurant will be hosting an in-person event led by Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier on the first night of Ontario’s third COVID-19 lockdown.

In a Facebook post, The South Branch Bistro said it would be opening despite the province’s stay-at-home order, which came into effect Thursday. Under the emergency order, restaurants can only be open for take-out or delivery.

Read more: Ontario issuing stay-at-home order, declares 3rd state of emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic

“We were faced with two choices — stay open to feed our family, or close for good. We opted for the former than the latter. Sure, you can boycott our business for making this decision but pretty soon we won’t have business for you to boycott,” the Facebook post said.

According to a tweet from No More Lockdowns Canada, a group started by the independent MPP for the region, Hillier will speak at the event.

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Hillier has come under fire consistently over the last year for speaking against, and himself contravening, public health guidelines, arguing that lockdowns do more harm than good.

The ad also said the event would feature live music and food from the restaurant, which was repeated in the restaurant’s Facebook post.

According to the restaurant, they will not be physically burning masks at the event.

“P.s. the ‘mask burning party’ was a joke and many people took it seriously. We won’t be burning masks… just metaphorically.”

In a statement released Thursday, North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford said she and council have received multiple complaints about the event.

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“Municipal staff have been in contact with the OPP and representatives from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Health Unit who are prepared to respond, as required, to assist council in keeping our community safe,” Peckford said.

She said the event “compromises crucial public health protocols that our community is working hard to follow.”

Just recently, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit warned of increased cases in its regions bordering Ottawa, specifically in Kemptville.

The health unit said it had recorded a major jump in United Counties of Leeds and Grenville East since March 28. About 35 per cent of the 41 cases seen in that region alone were variants of concern.

Read more: COVID-19 variant cases in areas near Ottawa rising, says LGL health unit

Ontario’s stay-at-home order will remain in effect for four weeks. By law, residents must stay home except for essential reasons, including going grocery shopping, picking up prescription medication, accessing health care, going to work when it cannot be done remotely and exercising close to home.

Any person found in contravention of the province’s emergency order can be fined up to $100,000.

The order was put into place as cases across the province continue to mount, with ICU beds filling up across the country.

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Read more: ‘Tipping point’: A look inside Canada’s hospitals as COVID-19 variants surge

In Ontario, hospitalizations are up by 41 per cent over the past two weeks and new variants of concern now account for 65 per cent of all cases in the province.

OPP East Region said they are aware of the planned gathering.

“OPP will continue to support the efforts of our bylaw officers and, in a circumstance where a police response is needed, we will respond,” said Annie Collins, media officer with the OPP.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit would not comment on the matter.

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No More Lockdowns Canada and South Branch Bistro have yet to respond to requests for comment.

— with a files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca and Saba Aziz

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