11.2 C
Niagara Falls
Sunday, March 3, 2024
UPDATED: Store fined for patrons not social distancing inside shop and in doorway, mayor says

Town says ticket was not for problems on sidewalk outside. Co-owner says no warnings received


The Town of NOTL says a store in Old Town was fined $880 for violating a provincial order after patrons in the doorway and inside the store – not outside on the sidewalk – were found to be ignoring pandemic social distancing rules.

The store was “definitely not” fined for problems on the sidewalk outside, Lord Mayor Betty Disero said Friday.  

A story in The Lake Report on Thursday quoted the co-owner of Nina Gelateria and Pastry Shop saying the ticket was levied because customers outside on the sidewalk were not observing distancing rules. Disero said the town would never do that.

She said the shop was visited by bylaw enforcement officers “on a number of occasions” in response to complaints from the public about social distancing problems. 

The store was cautioned “a few times,” Disero said and a ticket was given out after a bylaw officer observed infractions on Sunday, May 3.

Mark Martinovic, co-owner of the shop with his wife Klaudia, said it was “absolutely not true” that the store was warned.  “Ask who warned us because we never got the notice,” he said in a statement to The Lake Report on Friday aftenoon.

“We have a four customer limit in the store at all times.  Our doorway is a double-door entrance on the sidewalk. Not sure what they meant by congregating (what even is that?) in the doorway, what’s that supposed to mean? Are we talking about one foot inside and a foot outside on the sidewalk?  We did our best to control the customer limit in-store,” he said.

“Did we let more than four customers enter our store? To the best of our abilities, no. We did our best to control the front entrance of our store to make sure people were not crowding in front and told them to please clear the pathway. Without authority, it is a real challenge to tell people what to do.”  

“Not everyone listened to us, despite our efforts. Hw can we be expected to force people to do something at the risk of causing an escalation without help from authorities?  We noticed a bylaw officer in the front of our store writing notes. He did not acknowledge us or say anything to us. I wish the bylaw officer was aware of our efforts to maintain physical dIstancing,” Martinovic said.

“Was anyone ticketed for being outside and not physical distancing? We do not know. On the following Tuesday, we received the fine for not enforcing physical distancing in front of our store.”

Prior to publication of Thursday's story, The Lake Report asked the town for information about the incident but the municipality refused to release any details about 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.

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.

Martinovic said the ticket was a $750 set fine plus costs totalling $880. The fine has been paid, he said.

 “We have always followed the provincial guidelines in the store with signs and floor markings,” he said in an earlier statement to The Lake Report on Wednesday.

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.”

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.”

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.

“As a take-out/curbside pickup establishment, we never had any issues with serving our sweets, pizzas, crepes or panini sandwiches safely.”

“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.

Town spokesperson Lauren Kruitbosch said 42 charges have been laid 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.”

Subscribe to our mailing list