Liquor licence suspended at Kemptville anti-mask bistro

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is moving to revoke the liquor licence of a Kemptville bistro that hosted an anti-mask event this week.

In a statement early Saturday morning, officials at the provincial agency say they have suspended the liquor licence of The South Branch Bistro on Clothier Street East “for reasons of public interest and safety.”

The “interim suspension” takes effect immediately, officials said.

They added the agency has issued a “notice of proposal” to revoke the bistro’s liquor licence “for infractions of the Liquor Licence Act (LLA), including the requirement that the licence holder act and carry on business in accordance with the law and with honesty and integrity.”

The moves follow a “mask burning party” the Kemptville business held on Thursday evening, led by controversial independent MPP Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston) and his No More Lockdowns Canada group, in violation of the province’s shutdown and stay-at-home orders meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.a group of people in uniform:  MPP Randy Hillier confronts police at Thursday night’s anti-mask rally in Kemptville.© Provided by Ottawa Citizen MPP Randy Hillier confronts police at Thursday night’s anti-mask rally in Kemptville.

The event drew widespread condemnation, including from North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford, as Kemptville remains at the epicentre of a COVID-19 hot spot.

The AGCO officials note the violations of the provincial orders were not confined to Thursday’s protest party.

“Officials from the AGCO, the Ontario Provincial Police as well as local public health and bylaw enforcement officers visited the premises during the published times of the event,” the AGCO statement continues.

“People were observed consuming liquor inside the licensed premises, on the licensed patio, and in the surrounding parking lot. People were not socially distanced and most, including staff and children, were not wearing masks.

“When the AGCO returned to the establishment on April 9, it was observed that liquor was being served to patrons on the licensed patio despite the Province-Wide Shutdown Order in effect. Staff were again not wearing masks.”a group of people standing in a parking lot:  Gathered across the street from the Bistro, in Rotary Park, a group of masked residents, gathered in counter-protest to the”‘mask burning party” taking place at the South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, speak to an OPP officer.© Heddy Sorour Gathered across the street from the Bistro, in Rotary Park, a group of masked residents, gathered in counter-protest to the”‘mask burning party” taking place at the South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, speak to an OPP officer.

The officials note that “there are consequences” for licence-holders who don’t follow the rules, including the possibility of a fine, a temporary suspension of the licence, “or in the most serious cases a revocation of the licence.”

Under the law, the bistro can appeal the AGCO’s actions to the Licence Appeal Tribunal.

The Recorder and Times has reached out to the owners of The South Branch Bistro for comment.

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