WATCH: Leamington Business Owner Defies Provincial Shutdown

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Hundreds of people have gathered outside a restaurant in Leamington in support of the owner who has decided to stay open despite the province's 28-day emergency break.

In a hand-written sign posted at the Family Kitchen, owner Kirsty Leathem says, the business is how she supports her three children and 16 employees who also have families.

She tells AM800 news the provincial rules aren't fair, adding "My capacity in the restaurant is only set up at 50 per cent and I have been that way since February 3," she says. "If the big box stores down the road can be at 50 per cent, so can I."

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A sign posted in the window of Family Kitchen in Leamington, April 6, 2021. (Gisele Baribeau / Facebook)

Pastor Henry Hildebrandt from the Church of God in Aylmer made the trip to Leamington on Tuesday in support of Leathem after hearing about the story through social media.

"We do not believe that it is right before God, nor the bible, nor humanity," he says. "It's just not right that the people up above would oppress somebody like this."

Hildebrandt says they're not against following the rules if small businesses can stay open.

"We've got to show support here and let them know that we're behind you and if there is an issue, we will gladly social distance, we will do whatever it takes but it's been a whole year and we cannot buy that anymore," he says. "It's propaganda, I don't know what they're [provincial government] planning but we've got to support small businesses."

One restaurant patron who spoke to AM800 News, called provincial decisions "controlled demolition," adding, "Walmart and Costco are able to stay open and these little places that can hold a dozen comfortably, their tables are so far apart, but Costco you can jam in over 1,000 people - it's just ridiculous."

Leathem says she is doing more than enough to keep people safe and says "All of our tables are six feet apart, social distancing is in place and all the protocols that way. My business was on its way down, I was faced with a situation in January where I wrote out my rent cheque and it's not there, we are scrounging day by day just to be able to cover the rent."

 According to Leathem, she's not asking for sympathy, just for people to consider everyone's individual situations before they judge, adding she is doing what she needs to do to "simply survive."

 

— With files from AM800's Rob Hindi