Owner of Adamson Barbecue led away in handcuffs by police as supporters chant their support

Adam Skelly meets up with a supporter outside his business.

The owner of Adamson Barbecue was led away from his restaurant in handcuffs Thursday by Toronto police as supporters chanted their support.

Restaurant owner Adam Skelly was seen being led away by police as the large crowd, which had trickled in during the morning, loudly protested Skelly’s departure from the restaurant.

Police said they would give an update later Thursday.

Locks were changed on Skelly’s Etobicoke restaurant that has been opening in defiance of lockdown rules earlier Thursday.

“It’s going to be closed today, you can be sure of that,” Mayor John Tory said Thursday morning.

Toronto Medical Officer of Health issued the order to change the locks overnight and it was done so around 6 a.m. Thursday. Restaurant owner Adam Skelly was seen entering the building through a side entrance.

“Mr. Skelly was permitted to enter a portion of the building, where there is no access to the restaurant, to obtain personal belongings. The order to change the locks and prohibit entry currently applies only to the restaurant (eating and food prep area of the building),” said Brad Ross, chief communications officer for the the city.

On Thursday, supporters of Skelly could be seen on the property holding signs and chanting as police officers stood watch and blocked the building off.

Tory told Breakfast Television that interim Toronto police Chief James Ramer had told him a short time before that police “have a plan.”

“He’s been informed the locks have been changed on the building,” Tory said, and there will be a police presence to ensure Adamson Barbecue does not reopen.

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“We’ve had our difficulties with this (protest) including the fact that we literally were not able to seek an injunction under the law, the province had to do it,” Tory said.

“There were various things like that that just caused the situation to be not as quickly handled as might have been the case but it’s going to be closed today, you can be sure of that.”

Skelly announced Monday night that he was going to open his Queen Elizabeth Boulevard location on Tuesday as a protest of a provincial order that bans indoor dining in Toronto for 28 days.

Premier Doug Ford announced the order, which took effect Monday, after COVID-19 levels surged in Toronto and Peel and public health officers in both municipalities asked for restrictions to limit spread of the deadly virus.

Confusion reigned Tuesday after diners lined up and were able to dine inside while police officers watched. City officials announced they had closed the restaurant, upon receiving an order from Toronto public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa — at 4 p.m., its normal closing time.

But Skelly re-opened the restaurant Wednesday, arguing the closure law is unfair and unnecessary.

By the end of Wednesday, after a line of customers was again seen outside the restaurant in the morning and unconfirmed reports food had sold out, Toronto police announced that nine charges for offences over two days had been laid against the company and Skelly — for violating lockdown rules, operating without a business licence and breaching de Villa’s order.

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Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Staff Supt. Mark Barkley said police continue to speak with Toronto Public Health and municipal licensing and standards to give the best possible guidance to their officers.

“We have to work within the rule of law. This is a unique situation,” he said.

But the saga might not be over. On Thursday morning Adamson posted a message on social media: “Need locksmith & other hands at Etobicoke ASAP.”

In a post on Wednesday he celebrated being charged, saying his lawyers were “excited to dig in.”



“Crowdfunding is being organized to provide defense to all small businesses opening in protest,” he wrote.

Tory told Breakfast Television the message small businesses should be receiving is that if they defy the law, they will be closed.

“He’s putting people’s lives at risk in terms of the spread of the virus,” Tory said.

Skelly has two other locations — one in Leaside, another in Aurora.

With files from Jennifer Pagliaro

David Rider
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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