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City promising increased enforcement of bars this weekend

Last Updated Jul 17, 2020 at 4:57 pm EDT

A masked patron's reflection is seen in a plexiglass partition, as other patrons chat inside Bar Tonique in New Orleans, Thursday, July 9, 2020. A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is forcing bars in the good-time-loving, tourist-dependent city to shut down again just a month after they were allowed to partially reopen. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario says it will be ramping up inspections of Toronto bars and restaurants this weekend to ensure they are complying with provincial emergency measures aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier this week, the AGCO launched an investigation into King Street restaurant MARBL after a video surfaced on social media showing dozens of patrons crammed into a partially outdoor seating section while surrounded by unmasked employees carrying drinks.

MARBL confirmed that the video was authentic, but insisted it did not show the restaurant was breaking public health rules, citing thunderstorms on that particular night forcing individuals under the covered portion of the patio.

“The two minutes of footage that has been shared is an anomaly and not reflective of the rest of the evening, which was all socially distanced,” the club said in a statement.

Earlier this month, another King Street establishment – Goldie – lost its liquor licence after authorities learned it had hosted an illegal gathering of between 125 and 150 people.

Mayor John Tory says they want people to enjoy themselves when they’re out but he cautioned against reckless behaviour.

“Please, this weekend, keep an eye on the crowd scenes and try and stay away from them. Keep your physical distance from others who are not in your circle, and please wear a face covering as often as you can,” said Tory.

“The more people drink the more they’re inclined to forget about the health guidelines that have been put out there. Those guidelines are not out there to spoil people from having a good time. They’re put out there to keep people well.”

Canada’s deputy public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo also urged young people to stop cramming bars and dance floors, saying singing and dancing in close quarters is not the way to party this summer.

Njoo says indoor activities carry a higher risk to spread COVID-19 and that can have serious health consequences, even for young people.

“We are all in this together, and have a shared responsibility to help keep COVID-19 transmission low,” said Njoo. “It is concerning that we’re seeing the data show us that a greater proportion of our cases are now among what we call young adults, those less than 40.”

“I can remember that when I was younger I thought I was invincible – you can do anything, don’t worry about it, it’ll be OK,” he said. “Having said that, we have seen some anecdotes of young people having severe outcomes so you can’t consider that everyone is immune from having serious consequence.”

Patios reopened in the city at the end of last month when Toronto officially entered Stage 2. Bars and restaurants are required to follow strict public health guidelines that include keeping tables at least six feet apart.

Earlier this week, the government announced Stage 3 rules would allow restaurants to resume indoor service, however, the new rules don’t yet apply in the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, the Niagara region and Windsor-Essex,