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North York indoor golf club ordered closed, Scarborough gym protests lockdown

Last Updated Nov 26, 2020 at 5:18 pm EST

Express Fitness and Paramount Golf protested provincial lockdown orders on Nov. 26, 2020. Express Fitness held a peaceful protest and workout and Paramount opened their doors to customers. Credit: Hugues Cormier and James Ma

A gym in Scarborough and an indoor simulated golf club in North York are both protesting COVID-19 lockdown orders in different ways on Thursday.

Paramount Golf, an indoor simulated golf club in North York, reopened its doors Thursday morning before being shutdown by bylaw officers because the co-owner says they are exempt from the lockdown orders.

Jake Giller, 21, told Omni News they are maintaining operations under multiple exemptions which include:

  • The ability to operate by appointment only.
  • They are in the business of retail/sale of goods and their main line of business is the sale of unique golf simulators, plus they also sell PPE.
  • The store operates with no more than five people inside at one time, including staff.

“We believe that we are not violating any laws by opening,” Giller says. “In addition to that, we are standing up for the small businesses of the city, including ourselves.”

Giller says when they contacted Premier Doug Ford’s office for clarification and help, they were told they should not have started a business.

“We were also told that we don’t qualify for any subsidies … for rent or for anything else,” he said.

Giller adds their customers are very supportive and agree they should be able to remain open given their ability to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols and that they pose no threat to public safety.

He reiterated that they were open by appointment only.

“This falls under one of the exemptions under the new, very unclear restrictions. We are going to remain open until we are told that our interpretation of these very unclear laws is incorrect.”

Later in the afternoon, Toronto police along with city bylaw officers and a health inspector arrived at the location and issued fines to both Giller and the company.

Giller says they were first issued an $880 ticket, which was later voided and then upgraded.

“They decided to slap down two 104s, they called them. These 104s can be a fine of up to ten million dollars and we can face one year in jail,” says Giller adding that the penalties were imposed on both him personally and the company.

Paramount Golf will now be closed until the lockdown is lifted, said Giller, but the online store will continue to operate.

“We’re two young 21-year-old entrepreneurs and we were trying to opens safely under exceptions of the law and we never had any intention of harming anybody,” Giller said. “We do not believe that we were violating the law and so it’s very unfortunate that we have to face this and we’re quite disappointed.”

Across town, Express Gym in Scarborough organized what they called a “peaceful protest and workout” at their Scarborough location at noon.

Gym equipment was placed outside the doors at physically distanced spots and two DJs were on site to provide music for the workout. While the doors were open, it did not appear that people were allowed indoors to use the facilities.

On their Instagram page, the gym encouraged people to wear a mask and respect physical distancing during the protest.

Videos on the page also asserted that the protest was not an anti-mask rally, but rather they are asking for the government to hear their voices and reconsider the lockdown rules for small businesses so they can reopen under reasonable restrictions.

Police are seen inside Express Fitness after they organized a peaceful protest and workout to rally against provincial lockdown orders on Nov. 26, 2020. CITYNEWS/Hugues Cormier

 

Around 12:30 p.m., police arrived at Express Fitness and were seen entering the gym to reportedly ensure no one enters the premises.

The owners of the gym say they were issued a ticket but the situation remained peaceful. Supporters on site did not use the facility or any of the machines.