A number of small and prominent businesses in the Kingston area have come together via a private Facebook group to discuss how they won’t be cooperating with government mandates pertaining to COVID-19.
The group, Kingston and Surrounding Area Businesses Supporting Freedom of Choice, encompasses over 50 businesses, over 750 total members, and sees a median average of 25 posts per day, despite being less than a week old. According to Facebook, the group was created by “Gillian Friedman.”
Group members have declared on the page that non-vaccinated and non-mask-wearing patrons are more than welcome in their establishments, and are also actively encouraging other businesses – as well as the general public – to resist government COVID-19 mandates. Some owners running businesses which require entering a personal abode for work – such as carpenters and landscapers – have also declared on the page that non-vaccinated and ‘maskless’ homeowners may still hire them for projects, and that the workers and owners themselves will remain unvaccinated and maskless while working – if these workers choose to do so.
One prominent Kingston restauranteur (and member of said Facebook group) went so far as publicly declaring his stance through his business signage with the message “SAY NO TO VAX PASSPORTS. ALL WELCOME AT JAKKS.” Kelly Hale, owner and operator of J.A.K.K. Tuesdays Sports Pub on Progress Avenue in Kingston’s west end, was heralded as a “crusader for good” by members of the page for his bold public statement – and he takes the moniker quite seriously.
“First and foremost for me, and what people have realized, is that this is a spiritual battle between good and evil,” Hale said. “I’m not going to discriminate, and I’m not going to break the law just because the government wants me to.”
Hale said his latter sentiment refers to the idea that “vaccination passports” disclose an individual’s personal medical information, and that mandating proof of vaccination to enter establishments falls under violation of human rights.
With the mandate for some businesses to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination upon entry looming, is Hale worried that the government might take action against him and J.A.K.K. Tuesdays if he follows through with his declaration?
“Absolutely not, because I’m doing the right thing,” Hale asserted. “I’m following our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our God-given rights in the constitution, and I’ve got the Lord walking by my side through this battle. I’m just one of his foot-soldiers – it’s his battle, not mine.”
Hale further went on to say that he has never worn any form of face covering while at work, and he has no plans to start doing so in the future.
“I do not wear a mask at work. I never have, and I never will,” he said, noting that his employees, however, are free to wear a mask – or not – based on their own personal choice. With regard to sanitation for the COVID-19 virus, Hale offered that “we keep a clean restaurant” and that they haven’t had any issues with the Health Unit in over 15 years. While he said he does adhere to COVID sanitation policies, Hale stated, “whether it was COVID or not, I always did those things. So, this doesn’t change anything for me.”
Hale also shared that he admires those who have peacefully protested these mandates – including Gananoque City Councilman, Mike Kench, and that he personally attributes any potential violence that could happen during these protests to “agents” placed by the government.
While most businesses within the group could not be reached for interview or refused to comment on their expressed stance about COVID-19 policies, these businesses include: Elgin Bowling Lanes, Fck The Meat, Art Works (Belleville), The Silly Yak, Fine Lines Landscape and Designs, Resolution Fitness, Tozer & Ruys Real Estate, and many others. Several of these businesses – including J.A.K.K. Tuesdays – also participate in the anti-mask/anti-vax website nopasslist.ca, which operates in a similar manner to the Kingston and Surrounding Area Businesses Supporting Freedom of Choice group on Facebook.
Hale said that the support he and his restaurant have received on the site has been “overwhelming,” and that he is confident that this support will grow until members of Parliament recognize that their actions in regards to COVID-19 spread prevention are, as he put it, “evil.”
“Imagine, if you will, a country where you get in trouble from the law… for not breaking the law” he concluded. The provincial law which mandates proof of vaccination to enter businesses such as bars and restaurants comes into effect on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.
As for enforcement moving forward, KFL&A Public Health said Bylaw Enforcement will continue to enforce current mandates (such as mandatory face coverings), however, when it comes to businesses refusing to require proof of vaccination, consequences have yet to be determined.
“All businesses and organizations are required to follow the rules as outlined by the province in the Reopening Ontario Act, Regulation 364/20. KFL&A Public Health investigates complaints submitted by community members and will work with owners or operators to gain compliance,” KFL&A Public Health told Kingstonist in an email.
“Consistent with current practices under the Reopening Ontario Act, enforcement will be conducted by by-law officers as per provincial direction. Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors will begin with education and warnings visits,” the health agency continued. “We anticipate the province will release information related to fines for non-compliance.”
Kingstonist reached out to Kingston Police for comment on enforcement and consequences for not adhering to government mandates, however, no response was received by time of publication.