Man fined for refusing to wear mask in Victoria restaurant; coughed at staff

A man who refused to wear a mask in a downtown Victoria restaurant and coughed at staff members has been handed a $230 fine.

Victoria police were called to Cafe Mexico on Store Street around 8:30 p.m. Saturday after restaurant staff reported that a man refused to wear a mask when not seated at his assigned booth.

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The restaurant’s general manager, Kelsey Mitchell, said the man and his partner arrived without masks and mockingly put them on when asked while walking to their booth. The man repeatedly got up to go to the washroom and ignored instructions to put on a mask, purposely walking close to other tables on the way, Mitchell said. The third time he did this, Mitchell let him know he was breaking public health orders and needed to pay his bill and leave.

That’s when the man cocked his fist back in an attempt to intimidate Mitchell, swore at her and made derogatory comments. She told him police would be called and he laughed saying, “I can’t wait.”

As he left the restaurant, he coughed in an exaggerated manner toward other patrons, one server and Mitchell, who was outside waiting for police.

Officers detained the man as he was leaving the restaurant. He was fined $230 for abusive or belligerent behaviour under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act.

Mitchell wishes the fines were steeper to prevent people from flouting them.

“The staff are becoming extremely exhausted dealing with these negative confrontations,” Mitchell said. “I just want people to feel safe when they come here. I’m tired of us having to be berated and threatened.” She fears someone is going to get hurt, citing the case last week in Edmonton where a pub server was smashed in the face with a glass.

The provincial health order requires masks in all public indoor settings, including when not seated at a table at a restaurant.

People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear a mask, people who cannot remove a mask on their own, and children under the age of 12 are exempt from the order.

Last week, West Shore RCMP fined a 40-year-old man twice for refusing to wear a mask and causing a disturbance inside the Peninsula Co-op gas station on Millstream Road and at a Starbucks in View Royal.

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