A Toronto restaurant owner, whose establishment has been the target of weekly protests by a group chanting “No to (COVID-19) vaccine passports,” is calling on the Ontario government for help.
“It’s about stepping up and putting your money where your mouth is,” said Jen Agg, owner of Bar Vendetta.
“If you really are pro-business … We have not seen evidence of that with being hung out to dry and fend for ourselves when all it would take is vaccine certification passports totally normalized in big cities in America, in other places in Canada. This is not like a crazy ask.”
Agg shared videos on social media taken over the last several weekends showing dozens of protesters crowding the sidewalk in front of Bar Vendetta on Dundas Street West and chanting.
“It’s not fun for our servers to be screamed at and called Nazis and for me either. They will chant my name, they will call me the queen bigot,” she said.
Agg said it started in July when she tweeted support for vaccine passports in the province, despite not currently requiring vaccine certification in her own restaurants.
“I am not comfortable with the idea of eating inside a restaurant with unvaccinated people. Vaccine passports now,” she tweeted.
“We don’t ask for vaccine certification because we are not currently doing indoor dining, so their whole argument is coming from a place of a complete lack of understanding,” Agg told Global News.
“They have not ever heard of my restaurant before a month ago, they have not been into my restaurant. I believe that I’m being targeted because I have a profile and they want to get attention to their cause.”
In a series of tweets, Agg called on Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Doug Ford to step in.
“For weeks now, we have been targeted by loud, misguided, hugely invasive anti-vaxxers at Hoofland on Saturday nights,” she tweeted.
“It’s really awful and we’re getting no support from our government,” Agg told Global News.
“It goes on for hours and it’s very disruptive to our business. These CafeTO patios were put in place to help us get on our feet after what is probably the worst 17 months of my restaurant career and we’re struggling.”
Toronto police responded to a recent protest but there were no arrests made, simply cautioning several protesters “for language.”
Toronto police media relations manager Connie Osborne issued a statement to Global News in response to questions about that protest.
“On arrival, they (officers) discovered two separate groups of protestors involved in a heated disagreement. Officers separated both groups and people were allowed to continue to protest peacefully. Police remained on scene to monitor the situation, ensure the safety of everyone and keep the peace,” she wrote.
“Officers from 14 Division will continue to work with the business owner to address any concerns as well any other businesses in the area.”
Mayor John Tory contacted Agg on Monday to offer his support after seeing videos of the protests circulating on social media.
“I think that’s just plain bad behaviour by these protesters. It’s totally unacceptable,” he said in a statement.
“I don’t direct the police but I would hope they would definitely be on top of this and understand that there is a point when protest crosses the line and becomes harassment. I’ve shared my concerns about this with Chief Ramer.”
Agg said she will continue to sit outside her restaurant every Saturday evening to show support for her staff and patrons during the protests.
“I also do not want to just leave them to fend for themselves. Why is the government leaving me to fend for myself?” she asked.