Two men are now facing criminal charges and the city has completely seized a building following a raucous three day-long dispute between police and city officials and a restauranteur who brazenly declared that he would open up to serve customers despite lockdown orders in effect to contain a deadly pandemic.
Adam Skelly, the owner of the Adamson Barbecue restaurant in Etobicoke, was arrested by Toronto police officers Thursday afternoon after a crowd of supporters allegedly broke through a cordoned-off section of the building by smashing down drywall in an effort to reopen the shuttered restaurant.
Speaking with reporters Thursday afternoon, Supt. Domenic Sinopoli said police allowed Skelly into a section of the building “in good faith” because they didn’t believe that it fell under a closure order from Toronto Public Health. However a crowd of supporters then tried to smash through the walls to reopen the facility.
“At that time, and in good faith, we believed that that rear compartment was not captured by the order itself.” Sinopoli said. “The individual was allowed access to the rear compartment. During the process of him entering, they broke through the drywall and entered the restaurant proper and then from the inside, broke out and damaged the locks that were put in place by the city.”
Sinopoli said Skelly, 33, now faces one count of attempting to obstruct police, one count of mischief under, one count of failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act, and one count of failing to leave when directed under the Trespass to Property Act.
Video captured at the scene Thursday showed a loud and angry scene and Sinopoli said police were spit at and assaulted as they tried to enforce the public health orders at the restaurant.
He said 27-year-old Michael Belito Arana of Markham is now facing a slew of charges, including one count of obstructing police, six counts of assaulting a police officer, two counts of uttering a death threat, and one count of failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act.
Both men are expected to appear in court via video link tomorrow morning for a bail hearing.
Toronto Public Health has now taken occupancy of the entire premises and police will be posting trespassing signs prohibiting people from entering the building or the adjacent parking lot, Sinopoli said.
“We fully intend on enforcing the regulations in the Reopening Ontario Act, the section 22 order issued by Dr. de Villa, as well as the Trespass to Property Act,” Sinopoli said.
He said many of the officers were wearing body-worn cameras and the footage will form part of the evidence to support the charges that were laid.
City spokesperson Brad Ross told reporters that workers will be boarding up the building and changing the locks tonight to prevent re-entry.
“This is an integrated and coordinated effort, I can assure you, with the City of Toronto, Municipal Licensing and Standards, Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Police Service to protect the public,” Ross said. “We are in a pandemic, this is a health emergency.”
Crowds gather for a third day
At around 6 a.m. Thursday, police returned to the restaurant for a third day in a row to change the locks under an overnight order made by Toronto Public Health.
Skelly was seen first arriving at the premises shortly before 8 a.m. He asked the media to stay off the property and was seen talking with police officers.
Shortly after, he entered a portion of the building where there is no access to the restaurant, through a back door to obtain personal belongings.
Adamson Barbecue posted an Instagram story on their account Thursday morning saying “need locksmith & other hands at Etobicoke asap.”
A crowd of people surrounded the establishment in support of Skelly, who vowed to continue reopening his business despite provincial COVID-19 lockdown rules in Toronto and Peel Region that prohibit indoor dining to curb the spread of the virus.
Crowds formed around the premises throughout the morning and many people were seen without masks or face coverings.
At around 12:30 p.m., Skelly and another man were taken away from the premises in handcuffs by police officers.
Dozens of anti-lockdown protesters then moved to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s home in Etobicoke Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, the premier’s office said his family and his neighbours should not be subjected to harassment and intimidation.
“The gathering outside the Premier’s home today goes beyond acceptable political protests,” the premier’s office said.
“These protests have been ongoing for several weeks. We are pleading with them to leave those who have nothing to do with our government’s policies alone.”
Non-criminal charges laid a day earlier
Police laid nine non-criminal charges against Skelly on Wednesday after he opened the business for a second straight day despite Toronto Public Health formally ordering its closure.
On Wednesday, dozens of patrons were seen inside the restaurant, many of them without face coverings, in a repeat scenario from the previous day. However, the patrons left the premises shortly before noon and police were seen blocking the entrance so that nobody else could go inside.
Police confirmed on Wednesday that both Skelly and the corporation that the restaurant is registered to are facing a combined eight charges under the Reopening Ontario Act as well as one additional charge for operating in contravention of the Toronto Public Health order.
The charges under the Reopening Ontario Act are for hosting an illegal gathering on both Tuesday and Wednesday and for offering dine-in service on both days as well. Each individual charge can result in a fine of up to $10,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations.
The City of Toronto says Skelly is also facing two municipal bylaw charges for operating a business without a licence.