Hundreds gather at shutdown defying restaurant

Crowd outside of Family Kitchen restaurant in Leamington (via Henry Hildebrandt on Facebook)

Hundreds of people showed up at Family Kitchen restaurant in Leamington today to protest the latest provincial shutdown.

The restaurant, which is supposed to be closed to indoor dining, has been operating at 50 per cent capacity since February 3 despite the various regulations set in place by the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework.

“The big-box store can be open at 50 per cent capacity down the road with all their sanitizing and policies and stuff in place, that’s all we’re trying to do here as well,” said restaurant owner Kirsty Leathem. “We’re just trying to survive. That’s it. I’ve also got bills to pay. I’ve got kids to feed.”

Leathem says she asked some regular customers for support when she was informed that bylaw enforcement officers would be coming Tuesday morning to ticket the restaurant. The request made its way to social media and hundreds of people responded.

“The support that we have received today is absolutely phenomenal,” said Leathem. ” I don’t even have words. I don’t even have anything left in me to express the thanks and appreciation of seeing everybody coming together the way they did today, it was absolutely amazing,” said Leathem.

Inside the restaurant, Leathum says they have spread their tables six feet apart and allow seating for groups of four.

Outside, a crowd of hundreds gathered Tuesday morning. Many were not wearing masks and were not distancing from others.

“I didn’t pay any attention to who had masks on and who didn’t. There are mask exemptions. I honour that. I don’t discriminate to anybody,” said Leathem.

Leathem said, to her knowledge, no bylaw enforcement or health unit officials visited the restaurant Tuesday. reached out to Ontario Provincial Police about potential charges laid as a result of the protest but no information could be provided at the time of publishing.