Anti-mask protesters targeted The Hide Out Café on Monday – causing the downtown business to close an hour earlier than scheduled.
A small crowd of anti-mask protesters attended the Carnarvon Street café around noon on Monday. Video footage of the incident shows that, as mask-wearing customers were served and left the business, non-mask wearing customers were refused service.
“It’s private property,” an employee told a protester. “We have already asked you to leave.”
One protester said he would be filing a human rights complaint against the business for refusing to service customers who have medical exemptions to not wear a mask. He said people are not required to provide that proof under the BC Human Rights Code.
“We are live in a café that are discriminating against us for our medical disability. They are refusing us service,” said the man, who filmed the visit to the cafe. “They think they can do it. They cannot do it.”
New Westminster police attended the café, but by the time they arrived the protesters had already moved outdoors. Instead of its 2 p.m. closing time, the café closed at 1 p.m.
“The owner obviously had some concerns, requested they leave, at which time they did not. It was at that point that he called the police,” said police spokesperson Sgt. Sanjay Kumar. “Our members attended, briefly spoke with the individuals – I am not sure how many were there. They briefly attended and spoke to everyone there, educated them and reminded them of what the direction was of the public health officer, that the owner was trying to protect himself and has every right to do so.”
Some social media reports indicate that anti-mask protesters visited other sites in New West on Monday, including Columbia Street.
Kumar said the New Westminster Police Department did not receive calls or complaints about protesters at any other locations in the city.
“I want to be clear: everyone has a right to protest. If you don’t agree with something, everyone has a right to do that; it just has to be done in a safe and respectful manner,” he said. “If you are looking to protest for not wearing masks, if you are doing that outdoors it’s better than doing it indoors. We have to be clear on that – if people are going into stores, store owners are going to feel unsafe about it and they have the right to refuse service. I think the safest place to protest would be outside.”
According to Kumar, nothing has been handed down from the provincial government saying police can issue violation tickets.
“If they are refusing to comply, the store owners have every right to call us, for sure. We will attend, and we will talk to them and try to educate them,” he said. “As far as enforcing it, in terms of serving violation tickets or anything like that, nothing like that would happen but we would assist in removing those people from the business.”
Following the incident, many local residents took to social media to pledge support for The Hide Out Café. Many promised to visit the local business, which lost business by closing earlier than expected, and others pledged to counter negative reviews being posted online by writing positive reviews of the local business.
The Hide Out Café could not be reached for comment before the Record’s deadline.
Last week, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced new orders stating masks are required for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces. People who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt and masks are not recommended for children under the age of two.
According to the province, employers are expected to inform customers and employees of the mandatory mask policy and businesses can refuse entry or service to customers if they do not wear a mask.