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Vancouver mayor threatens court injunction against restaurant for flouting COVID-19 restrictions

The mayor's tweet comes the morning after a rally and protest was held outside the establishment
Corduroy rally
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a tweet that he is exploring all avenues to put a stop to the owners of Corduroy Restaurant fighting coronavirus restrictions.

A restaurant owner that has publicly disobeyed coronavirus (COVID-19) health restrictions could face legal action, according to Vancouver’s mayor. 

Almost 24 hours after a largely maskless crowd was seen gathering outside the Corduroy Restaurant in Kitsilano, Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced on Twitter that he is exploring all avenues to put an end to the restaurant owner’s charade. 

“The decision by Corduroy restaurant owners to continue to flaunt public health orders despite the City suspending their business license is unacceptable. I am exploring all avenues to put a stop to this- including a court injunction,” the tweet reads.

This is not the first time Corduroy’s owner, Rebecca Matthews, has faced the ire of B.C. politicians for flying in the face of COVID-19 restrictions. After serving patrons inside her restaurant, despite indoor service not being allowed as part of the province's 'circuit breaker' order earlier this month, Matthews decided to stay open. This led to a confrontation between Matthews and health officials who were eventually chanted out of the restaurant. 

The next day British Columbia's public safety minister Mike Farnworth said businesses putting staff and patrons at risk by remaining open in defiance of COVID-19 rules will face consequences.

"Harassment of enforcement officials will not be tolerated, and closure orders by Vancouver Coastal Health or any other health authority must be respected," Farnworth said in a statement. 

On the same day, the City of Vancouver suspended the business license for Corduroy until April 20. 

During a protest to “save small business” held April 2, Matthews outlined some of the issues she had been facing as a mother of four and a restaurant owner.

“After the lockdown, we had to close our doors for six months because we couldn’t find staff because everyone was on the CERB and takeout had us operating at a loss. We were just getting on our feet again and it felt almost normal,” Matthews said referring to the new round of restrictions for restaurants. “We are still paying full price for our licence and permits and our capacity and hours have been cut in half.”

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, says he has been in communication with Matthews and offered some solutions—all of which she refused.

Tostenson worked with Matthews to get information on what grants she could be eligible for and how to apply for them. Tostenson says Matthews could be eligible for technology and recovery grants worth a total of $37,500 so she could create a patio space for her restaurant. As Tostenson tells it, Matthews declined and he has heard nothing more from her.

"I would think that if she was truly looking at her business long term she would be doing those things,” he said. "The reason Rebecca has had her restaurant open is because of the work that the industry did in a formal way to put the protocols in place and maintain high protocols and safety."

In speeches at protests, Matthews has aligned herself with talking points held by anti-mask and anti-vaccine groups with many in attendance not following social distancing protocols or wearing face coverings. Tostenson says “people can do what they want to do,” but adds the trust Matthews may have already eroded from the majority of people could be hard to earn back.

"We serve the community that we operate in and when you sort of do something to disrupt that trust— that community trust— I really think it's almost impossible to get it back," Tostenson said.

"If she wants to get serious and we can help her we're not going to back away from her, but boy, I tell ya, she's not helping herself."

Vancouver Is Awesome placed a call to Matthews but did not receive a response. Updates to come.

- With files from Canadian Press, Brendan Kergin