When a man entered Empire Coffee at the Adventure Hotel in Nelson, B.C. on Friday and refused to wear a mask, the hotel’s general manager Robert Little said the situation escalated.
“The person got pretty disgruntled about it, and started to shout profanities and called the staff sheep,” Little said, and added the man had been asked politely to don a mask by the shop’s manager. “We even have (masks) available if people forget them.”
Little said the manager contacted the hotel’s financial controller, a longtime employee, for help.
“She didn’t hesitate to go try to deal with the situation, assuming that she was … dealing with somebody that had some level of civility,” Little said. “I believe she said to the person, you know, you’re not coming in here, we’re not going to have our staff talked to this way and you know the public health order is the public health order and we have to follow it. And the person spat on her.”
Nelson police were called and said they arrested a man nearby. His name has not been released, as charges have not yet been laid, but police said they are looking into possible assault charges in the case. Authorities said the suspect is known to police.
Little said his co-worker was “in shock,” and then an hour or so later, she came into his office complaining of major chest pains.
“She had a massive heart attack,” Little said, and added she was taken to hospital in Kelowna. “From what I’ve heard from family she’s stable right now. She’s definitely not out of the woods by any stretch, and she’s still in intensive care.”
Little said the majority of their customers are great, and this incident caught them off guard.
“There’s definitely a sentiment of people getting a little more agitated, angry as this pandemic continues to go, but this one really crossed the line,” Little said.
In New Westminster, Sgt. Sanjay Kumar with the local police confirmed they were called to a local coffee shop on Monday after people entered the business, refused to wear masks, and initially wouldn’t leave.
“At the time, the store owner asked them to leave. The individuals inside the store claimed that they had a medical exemption,” Kumar said.
Video posted online shows employees being filmed while someone is heard saying they’re going to file a human rights complaint.
“After a brief conversation they were still permitted to do their demonstration, but just not inside the store,” Kumar said. “I think the biggest difference with people who have medical exemptions and people who refuse to wear masks is that the people with medical exemptions aren’t confrontational.”
Kumar said businesses have a right to protect their workers and refuse service. Now, those refusing to wear a mask can also be fined $230 by police, or possibly more, according to B.C.’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.
“If they are abusive, they can also receive an additional $230 ticket,” Farnworth said. “And on top of that, depending on the situation, the police have the ability to issue additional fines under the COVID-related measures act, fines up to $2,300.”
Farnworth said the “overwhelming majority” of people are following the order.
“It is a small minority of people who think they have a right to endanger the health of the public. They do not have that right,” Farnworth said. “It is unacceptable some of the behaviour we have seen, and businesses need to know that there is zero tolerance for those kinds of actions.”
In an email, Nelson police said they are conducting further investigation to see if there is a connection between the hotel employee’s “health crisis” and the alleged assault.
The man who was arrested has a court date scheduled for early next year, and release conditions forbidding him from going to the coffee shop.
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