COVID-19: NOTL store fined $880 for patrons not social distancing – on the sidewalk outside
A sign outside of Nina Gelateria asks people to practice physical distancing. (Richard Harley) Share this:
Kevin MacLean, Managing Editor May 20, 2020 | Wednesday
A store in Old Town has been fined $880 for violating a provincial order after patrons on the sidewalk outside were found to be ignoring pandemic social distancing rules.
The owners of Nina Gelateria and Pastry Shop were ticketed by a Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake bylaw officer for a violation on Sunday, May 3.
Downtown NOTL was packed with visitors that weekend, despite a state of emergency and few services being available. More than 10,000 vehicles entered Old Town that Saturday and Sunday, according to town traffic count data.
The town refused to release any details on the ticket, citing privacy statutes and the fact the matter was before the courts.
NOTL’s acting senior enforcement officer Henry Boese said he can’t talk about it. “That incident is currently with the Ontario Court of Justice and I can’t speak about it,” he said.
In response to a question asking to clarify the town’s position on what businesses should be doing on sidewalks to enforce distancing, spokesperson Lauren Kruitbosch said, “Businesses should be taking reasonable steps to enforce physical distancing within the business. Sidewalks can be used by pedestrians waiting in line to enter a store (while maintaining physical distance). They can’t however, be used for business purposes.”
Mark Martinovic, who co-owns Nina Gelateria with his wife Klaudia, confirmed receiving the ticket, a $750 set fine plus costs totalling $880. The fine has been paid, he said.
Until that first weekend in May, the shop, at 37 Queen St., was “closed on the weekends as we were just catering to our locals, Monday to Friday,” Martinovic said in a statement to The Lake Report.
The store owners heard there would be a parking ban and many bylaw officers in town for added support, “so we decided that it would be OK to open up. We have always followed the provincial guidelines in the store with signs and floor markings,” he said.
“As a take-out/curbside pickup establishment, we never had any issues with serving our sweets, pizzas, crepes or panini sandwiches safely.”
On Sunday, May 3, Queen Street was very busy. “We wish we received a warning or some communication first, but we ended up receiving a fine for not enforcing physical distancing in front of our store.”
“A big problem is that the sidewalk is shared by people waiting to get inside the store (while waiting in line) and with pedestrian traffic and it clearly presents a challenge for businesses and the town, moving forward.”
Some of the customers outside were families, who, when standing together in line, can appear to not be complying with physical distancing requirements, Martinovic said.
“But as they are a family unit, they stay in close proximity together and this is allowed under present regulations.”
“The good news since then is that we have maintained positive communication with the town and are working together to make sure we are on the same page,” he said.
Kruitbosch said the town has laid 42 charges during the state of emergency, which was declared on March 23.
“Some were laid as trespass, the majority for violation of the (province’s) emergency order. The identities of persons or businesses charged are protected by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”