A restaurant in Winnipeg has become the favourite target of the local government, that seeks to punish it through the enforcement of draconian rules—including fining it after some of its patrons danced at their table.
As if businesses weren’t already struggling with the implementation of social distancing guidelines and reduced turnout, they’re now having to deal with the arcane fines that come with the misbehavior of patrons, through no fault of the owners.
Chaise Corydon faces $5,100 in fines for violating COVID-19 guidelines on two separate occasions. The owners received their first ticket of $2,542 in June for not spacing their chairs and tables to the exact specifications issued by the Winnipeg government. Last Friday, the restaurant received a second fine of the same amount after some of its patrons danced at their table.
The government says the patrons weren’t social distancing, so the restaurant has to pay the price. Speaking to The Post Millennial, owner Shea Ritchie says that his restaurant received the fines from a Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) inspector, whom he says do not have the same formal training as proper health inspectors, whom he believes are currently short-staffed.
According to Ritchie, the inspector issued a ticket for “social distancing” and “dancing” on the grounds that the inspector said “he saw people ordering from the bar and in another area there were 4 people dancing amongst themselves and that was why we were fined $2542.”
“I asked him which rules applied to us under the regulations cited on our ticket and he said we were ‘a restaurant.’ I asked him which of the 4 applicable rules we broke and he couldn't find one,” said Ritchie.
“He put me on hold for a few mins and then returned to tell me that we were now under a different category of rules: ‘a restaurant’ and ‘a licensed premise.’ Unfortunately, he couldn't find a rule that was broken under that category either,” he added.
“He put me on hold again to check with a coworker and he confirmed with me after that we were allowed to have walk-up service and people didn't have to be seated. He explicitly said that we did not have a dance floor. He said he was 'just doing what he was told' so he wouldn't consider reducing the fine to a warning, even though he wasn't even clear on the rules and didn't have one to support the ticket.”
Ritchie told TPM that on the following day, the inspector called to inform him that he had spoken with MB Health who then directed him towards an unofficial website called “Engage Manitoba,” which he says did very little to clarify what rules, if any, that he violated.
“I said I had been given what I believed were the rules, directly from MB Health and they never mentioned anything related to those ‘guidelines.’ I asked if he would again consider reducing the fine to a warning, given that I was not told about these new rules nor did he know they existed at the time he issued his ticket; he refused.”
Following media coverage that painted the local government in a bad light for fining Ritchie’s restaurant for the “dancing” of a handful of its patrons, the inspector has since called to inform him that the fine was never issued for “dancing.” “I asked him why he put it on my official ‘advisory’ that he left, the only document we received that listed a violation for the ticket, and he said those were just his unofficial notes,” said Ritchie. “This is not consistent with the statement he gave me in a text message before we first spoke where he detailed why we were fined, specifically for us allowing some people to dance.”
Ritchie says that he has reached out to MB Health for an official statement, and that they confirmed that the only applicable laws that pertain to his restaurant are listed under the Public Health Act P210, and that the LGCA inspector’s decision to refer him to a third-party website was not enforceable. However, despite the admission that the inspector made a mistake, MB Health is refusing to retract the ticket.
Ritchie tells TPM that he requested a statement in writing from the government to cite which rule he broke, and what the actual applicable laws are. He has not received a response. “The LGCA is trying to cover for their inspector's obvious mistake which is corrupt and an abuse of power,” said Ritchie.
“Nobody is above the law. I have to follow the rules and they need to be accountable and follow the rules too!”