The Niagara Falls restaurant that was unable to get Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff and his party to wear masks and physically distance is pleading with the public to still support its business.
In a Monday Facebook post, Betty’s Restaurant in Chippawa said it has COVID-19 safety protocols in place to protect its staff and customers, which Oosterhoff and a gathering of more than 40 people would not follow.
“This group was reminded several times that they were required to wear masks when not seated at their table. Unfortunately, they chose not to follow posted rules about wearing masks and distancing. We can remind guests but we cannot strong-arm them into following rules,” the post said.
“We have sanitized and disinfected the entire area since the party and we are truly doing our best to follow all guidelines for your safety and ours.”
The post, which echoes what restaurant owner Joe Miszk told the St. Catharines Standard Monday, then asks for people to continue to dine there.
“We humbly appreciate all of those who continue to support us.”
Both Miszk’s statement and the Facebook post present a different version of events than the short statement issued by Oosterhoff after he was subjected to online criticism after he posted tightly packed group photos taken at the restaurant. Neither he nor anyone else in the pictures are wearing masks.
In his emailed statement, Oosterhoff said the size of the gathering in the restaurant’s dining hall was within the 50-person limit established by provincial rules. He also apologized for not wearing a mask in the photos.
Oosterhoff, who has refused to answer questions about the incident and has deleted the photos from his Facebook page, makes no mention of having to be reminded by Betty’s staff to follow the posted rules in the restaurant.
Calls for Oosterhoff to be fired from his post as the assistant to Ontario’s education minister quickly followed the posting of the photos, including from the president of the Ontario Hospital Association.
Asked about the issue Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised Oosterhoff for apologizing and said he would not demote the Niagara MPP.
There have been no COVID-19 cases linked to the weekend event yet — although it can take up to a week for a person to show symptoms after exposure to the virus.
Niagara public health confirmed seven new cases Tuesday, the second day in a row of single-digit case growth after a sharp rise of cases into the double digits over the weekend.
The new cases bring Niagara’s cumulative COVID-19 total to 1,358 since March. Public health data shows that 108 of those cases are active and according to Niagara Health statistics there are still three people being treated for COVID-19 at St. Catharines hospital.
At least 69 Niagara residents with the virus have died since the pandemic began.