B.C. restaurant owner chooses to close due to 'pushy' patrons ignoring pandemic protocols

A restaurant owner in Nelson, B.C., ended up closing his diner's doors on Saturday after experiencing what he described as an "incredible influx of out of town visitors."

The influx comes at a time when the province is asking people to avoid non-essential travel due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

In a Facebook post, Nick Diamond said staff at the Main Street Diner in the southern Interior city were being "pushed around and treated poorly," and that many of the patrons were "rude and not following basic health orders or advisories."

"I made an incredibly tough call to close my business halfway (through) a tremendously busy day for what I felt was in the name of community health and safety," he wrote online.

CTV News has reached out to Diamond, who said in his post that, while he is thankful for what visitors have brought to the community over the years, "now is not the time to put profits before community health."

"If you ARE travelling for what you see as a justified reason then I'd also bet you aren't: dining out in large groups, pulling tables together when signs clearly state not to, asking questions like 'can I sit inside', or walking around without a mask on," he said.

He wrote that the number of out of province licence plates he was seeing in Nelson over the weekend was "incredibly concerning."

"Me personally...I don't want your money right now, I want you to go home, be safe and stay healthy," he wrote. "Just visit another time. We will be so thrilled to welcome you back."

Nelson Mayor John Dooley said Diamond texted him when he made the decision to close.

"I let him know that we would support him in any way we possibly could," Dooley told CTV, saying he was disappointed that the restaurant was put in that position.

"We wanted to thank him for being careful enough to make sure that he was looking after the greater good of our community."

Dooley said it's believed the situation at the diner was caused by a group of people who had come to the city for an anti-mask demonstration on Saturday.

"When that demonstration ended, those people filtered out into the community," he said. "They did visit a number of locations."

In a news release, Nelson police said about 150 people gathered for a rally at city hall on April 3.

Three violation tickets worth $2,300 were issued. A man from the Sunshine Coast and a man from Vancouver were among the recipients.

Dooley said most people who have visited Nelson over the past year have been "very, very respectful."

"We believe this push back was directly connected to a group of people that we really don't want in our community," he said.

Nelson Chamber of Commerce president and local business owner Tanya Finley said she also reached out to Diamond, and said she supports "anyone who has to do anything like that, that they feel is for their safety."

Finley also mentioned the rally on Saturday, and said while she herself hasn't noticed a huge influx of tourists "what we are seeing is there has been a lot of backlash all across the province with retail workers, servers... and what we're just asking people is please respect these guidelines and we are absolutely doing our best."

Finley said she's grateful to everyone supporting local businesses.

"What we don't appreciate is the last minute closures, and there needs to be more notification for our industry," she said.

She also believes there needs to be more support from government.

"The wage subsidy needs to continue. We need to have more transparency over the closures. It's devastating what's happening right now."

Diamond has said the diner will re-open on Tuesday, following the holiday weekend.