Toronto BBQ restaurant owner who opened despite COVID-19 lockdown granted bail

The owner of an Etobicoke restaurant who openly defied public health restrictions has been granted bail.

Adam Skelly, 33, declared on social media Monday night that he would open his BBQ restaurant in Etobocike to in-person dining despite provincial lockdown orders for Toronto and Peel Region.

He opened to serve customers on Tuesday before being ordered to close by Toronto Public Health. Despite the order, he returned to serve customers on Wednesday, resulting in in non-criminal charges for Skelly and the corporation that owns the restaurant.

On Thursday, police changed the locks on the restaurant, but allowed Skelly into a portion of the building they believed was not covered by the closure order from Toronto Public Health.

However according to police, his supporters smashed through drywall to access the restaurant area to try and reopen it.

Skelly was led away in handcuffs and now faces a number of charges, including attempting to obstruct police, mischief under, failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act, and failing to leave when directed under the Trespass to Property Act. 

He appeared in court via video link on Friday and was released after his wife posted $50,000 bail.

Under the conditions of his bail, Skelly must stay 200 metres away from Adamson Barbecue, as well as his two other businesses; He is not to operate a business except in accordance with the Reopening Ontario Act; He must obey the Health Protection Act, as well as all lawful orders by Ontario's Chief Public Health Officer and the Regional Public Health Officer. As well, he must not communicate on social media.

"It took so long today because a crown attorney was being advised at a province level on what my bail conditions should be," Skelly told reporters after being released.

"One of those bail conditions is that I'm not allowed to use, communicate, or post on social media. That to me is really interesting. I wonder what it is that the province doesn't want everybody to know."

Another man, 27-year-old Michael Belito Arana of Markham, was also arrested at the restaurant Thursday following a confrontation with police. He has been charged with obstructing police, six counts of assaulting a police officer, two counts of uttering a death threat, and one count of failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act.

In the meantime, Toronto Public Health has completely seized the premises of Adamson Barbecue and the city boarded up the building.

While the restaurant has seen a crowd of supporters every day, many without masks, a number of other businesses in the area have complained that Adamson is flouting the rules while those observing them continue to suffer a loss of business.

An online fundraising effort has already collected more than $175,000 on Adamson’s behalf.

Toronto and Peel Region entered their second lockdown Monday as COVID-19 numbers soar far above those recorded in the first wave of the pandemic back in March. While most young people tend to experience milder symptoms and recover, the virus has proved deadly for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. As of Friday, COVID-19 has killed 3,595 people in Ontario.

The latest modelling from public health officials indicates that if the province fails to get case numbers under control, Ontario’s hospitals could be overwhelmed and many scheduled surgeries and procedures will need to be delayed.

‘Serious charges’ possible for further violations

Speaking with CP24, criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind said Skelly could face some serious further charges if he continues to defy the law.

“He could be charged with serious crimes that are called ‘fail to comply,’” Goldkind said. “And when you get charged with fail to comply you're taking your jeopardy of these mischief and obstruct charges and you're increasing it greatly.”

Goldkind said the conditions of Skelly’s bail are “significant,” including the stipulation that he not use social media.

That charge likely stems from his use of Instagram to announce that he would defy the lockdown orders and invite people to come eat at his restaurant, and his subsequent use of the platform to call for locksmiths and other help to reopen the restaurant after it was shut down by police and public health officials.

“That is a very significant stipend put on him. Remember he's presumed innocent at this stage, even though he's doing it live on national TV,” Goldkind said. “But absolutely from the Crown point of view, they don't want him inciting more, or inviting more people to come down to Adamsons, which is now obviously cordoned off.”

Skelly’s next court appearance is currently scheduled for Jan. 4.