Cornwall bar under police investigation

Patrons gather around the bar at Remington's Deli & Bar on Montreal Road in Cornwall, Ont. on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Cornwall's police chief says the bar is the subject of an ongoing police investigation. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall bar that defied an Ontario state of emergency order to close to stop the spread of coronavirus is now the subject of a police investigation.

In a Facebook Live chat with Mayor Bernadette Clement Thursday night, Chief Danny Aikman said the force’s Criminal Investigations Branch is handling the case surrounding Remington’s Deli and Bar at 101 Montreal Road. “We’re taking it quite seriously” and “we’re following up quite diligently,” the chief said.

“There is some indication of some communication that may or may not have been understood by the particular location in question,” Aikman said.

He says there are “significant” fines under the Provincial Offences Act for those who don’t abide by the order, issued by Ontario Premier Doug Ford Tuesday morning. Failing to comply carries a maximum fine of $750, obstructing police trying to enforce the provincial order is a maximum fine of $1,000. Aikman says parts of the Criminal Code of Canada also apply and his force is “prepared” to make arrests in executing the order.

Cornwall Police Service Sgt. Patrick Paquette indicated to Cornwall Newswatch that officers were there at least twice that Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Officers attended at 1:30 a.m., 30 minutes before Remington’s was originally scheduled to close, and enforced the provincial order.

“My understanding is, it (the bar) ended up closing…we ended up back there around 1:30 in the morning, at which time the establishment was closed as per the (order). There wasn’t any conflict or anything like that. We just went over and advised them they had to close and they did close without any conflict,” the sergeant said.

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford called the actions of the bar “careless and reckless” and said the provincial government would be keeping an eye on the situation.

On its Facebook page Thursday afternoon, bar management claimed it was following a memo from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit that it had to close March 18 (Wednesday). That memo was issued March 16 – a day before Premier Doug Ford issued a state of emergency (March 17) Tuesday morning ordering all bars and restaurants to close immediately.

The bar also claims that it did not have a big party, but rather a “small group of family and friends around 10-15 people.” A Facebook post, which has been deleted, encouraged people to come, boasting about food and drink sales, prizes, giveaways and Celtic music. The bar added that it “has not received any fines or legal trouble for remaining open that day.”

“We would like to formally apologize to any and all who were offended by our gathering,” the message read in part.

Those on social media weren’t buying it. As of Friday morning, the post had 172 comments – almost all of them not accepting the apology.