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Bar owner disputes dance misstep

Restaurant owner hit with physical-distancing fines frustrated by lack of clarity in rules

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Chaise Corydon has been fined for disregarding COVID-19 distancing regulations.</p>


Chaise Corydon has been fined for disregarding COVID-19 distancing regulations.

The dance police fined a popular Corydon Avenue bar over $2,500 last weekend after several guests got a bit footloose, contrary to physical-distancing regulations.

Shea Ritchie, the owner of Chaise Corydon, says the $2,542 fine was handed out following a Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) inspection Friday night.

He said the restaurant was following provincial guidelines, operating at capacity with spacing guidelines and security in place. But the inspector assumed a group of 35 people inside were not part of the same group, which Ritchie said they were. He also said a group of four patrons stood up to dance to a live DJ’s music, and that the inspector said restaurant staff should have stopped them.

"We don’t have a dance floor (and they’re currently not allowed by the province), and the inspector acknowledged that," Ritchie said. "But he said by having four people dancing it could have potentially enticed more people to start dancing."

"We were told we should have told them to sit down or stop dancing," he said, which Ritchie said is not something he was aware businesses are ordered to do under the provincial requirements. He said his concern is with the lack of clarity over exactly how the restaurant violated guidelines, and that the inspector seemed unsure himself when asked afterward.

"There’s nowhere in the rules where you can’t have a group of 40 people," he said. "It seems they’re spreading around rules they want people to follow, but they aren’t in the order," he added. He said a warning would have been a more suitable punishment given the inspector’s apparent confusion.

The LGCA said Tuesday the infraction was clear.

"With Chaise Corydon, an LGCA inspection on July 11 found that there were not proper measures in place to ensure physical distancing between patrons throughout the premises and that live entertainment with dancing was occurring," a spokesperson wrote in an email.

The spokesperson said the LGCA’s inspections protocol is updated each time new health orders are issued, and that warnings for licensees to try and attain compliance are given out too. If repeated infractions are found and warnings aren’t heeded, the LGCA can issue a ticket and report violations to Manitoba Health, the spokesperson said.

Under the current public health order, restaurants and bars no longer are under an occupancy limit, however, they must implement measures to ensure patrons are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from others, except for brief exchanges.

Despite the fine, Ritchie said that’s what his restaurant has done: he said Chaise had set up sections with capped capacity, including on its patio, and hired security guards to make sure enough space was left between guests.

In June, the restaurant was issued a $2,542 fine for its failure to properly distance its seating on its patio, which Ritchie said was immediately addressed afterward. He also said that ticket was the result of a lack of clarity over requirements from the province.

Ritchie reiterated his restaurant hadn’t done anything to violate the most recent public health order, saying much of his clientele has embraced lowered restrictions the province has implemented and that the restaurant has responded responsibly.

He said he plans on fighting the tickets.

According to the province’s most recent health protection report, 11 food service establishments have received fines of $486 or $2,542 related to contravention of public health orders related to COVID-19.

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Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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Updated on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 11:41 PM CDT: Adds lists of establishment convictions and closures.

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