The flagrant violation of public health orders has been good for business for two Winnipeg eateries.
"We will not comply with any unconstitutional mandates!" reads a sign taped to the door that leads to the Monstrosity Burger and Tuxedo Village Family Restaurant, which share a space in a Corydon Avenue strip mall. "We will not participate in helping government steal your freedom of choice and divide our people!"
Inside the entryway, signs and stickers tout a "pro freedom zone" and advise visitors they won’t be asked for proof of immunization; a stool in the corner holds a stack of newspapers with articles critical of COVID-19 vaccines and mandates.
Even before the restaurants open for the Friday lunch rush, a lineup of about a dozen customers forms outside. Some take photos of the signage on the door, and one patron explains to the others that he had travelled from The Pas to show his support for the restaurant. It has been fined for breaking COVID-19 public health rules. A prominent local organizer of anti-mask rallies stops by, unmasked.
Owners Dave Jones and Paulina Jojnowicz have gone public about being ticketed and their views against the province’s measures to curb COVID-19. In a public interview with a local Facebook group posted Tuesday, Jones compared masks to muzzles and said he and Jojnowicz planned to fight their tickets.
"We have a government that’s committing treason, trying to get us to enforce something that’s illegal, to have someone provide their medical records," he said. "We’re not going to do that, we’re not going to bow down to this government anymore."
Jones refused to comment after being contacted by the Free Press Friday.
The owners are no strangers to controversy. Earlier this month, a video surfaced online of two unmasked uniformed police officers ordering in the restaurant. The staff who took their orders were also unmasked. At the time, police board chairman Markus Chambers told media he expected police officers to behave in line with public health orders.
The police chief weighed in on the incident after attending a police board meeting Sept.. 10.
"It will be looked at — the division commander is aware of it. I expect them to find out what the circumstances were," Danny Smyth told reporters.
"They’ll be a follow-up, and there’s potential that professional standards may be involved," the chief said.
In June 2020, the Tuxedo Village restaurant was vandalized after one of the owners commented on a personal Facebook account claiming that "white people (were) going around and bowing down to and kissing the feet of Black people to prove their (sic) not racist." It was posted days after a large Black Lives Matter in Winnipeg.
Not every Winnipeg eatery has had success after speaking out against public health orders.
The downtown coffee shop Forth Café decided to close less than a week after management announced it would halt indoor dining after "struggling to align (its) values of a healthy society with the current mandate from the Manitoba government which restricts indoor dining to only vaccinated customers."
"We are struggling to align our values of a healthy society with the current mandate from the Manitoba government which restricts indoor dining to only vaccinated customers," the Instagram post, published last week, reads. "We do not believe this is an effective and inclusive public health policy and we wish to signal support for open and reasonable debate on the public health response in Manitoba (and Canada)."
A post on Instagram Thursday said the café would be closed for the rest of September because staff was harassed after the owners shared their views online.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.