Social media post praising ‘heroes of the occupation’ sparks anger, restaurateur says

Adam Vettorel is the chef and co-owner of the North & Navy restaurant. (CBC – image credit)

Some businesses in downtown Ottawa say the end of the week-long protest has not meant a return to normalcy, but rather a continuation of harassment and safety issues, including a restaurant facing backlash following a recent social media post praising those who challenged the protesters.

Monday, North & Navy tweeted an offer of free meals to a number of residents who have spoken out against the protest which has been going on for weeks.

Guests included Zexi Li, who launched a class action and asked for an injunction seeking to silence protesters’ truck hornsand three women who made headlines after block the path of a large platform at the start of the demonstrations.

“We’re just looking for ways to put people in a good mood after a horrible few weeks,” co-owner Adam Vettorel said, adding that he considers his guests “heroes of the occupation.”

Most of the responses to the tweet were mostly positive, except for “a few online trolls,” he told CBC.

“They left us bad reviews and sent us some pretty nasty emails… A lot of them aren’t even from the Ottawa area.”

Mall evacuation ‘scary’, worker says

Vettorel’s experience this week underscores some of the ongoing tensions in downtown Ottawa following the protests.

Tuesday – just hours after the downtown Rideau Center reopened for the first time – the mall was evacuated and closed for about three hours.

A 50-year-old man allegedly stole from a mall and then pulled out a gun when confronted by security, according to a news release from Ottawa police. He was arrested after fleeing on foot and faces multiple firearms charges.

Officers recovered fake firearm, sources say

Sheena McLaughlin, who works at the mall, called the evacuation frightening.

“Security was definitely a little freaked out,” she said, adding that she saw armed officers running at one point.

Buntola Nou/CBC

Buntola Nou/CBC

But she said she was also not surprised anything had happened given the situation in the city’s downtown area over the past few weeks and the current police blockades.

“It doesn’t feel as safe as I think we want it to at the moment,” she said.

She said staff were just trying to get back to work after being away for so long without pay.

WATCH | What drove protesters to Ottawa and what may follow:

The flight “the icing on the top of the cake”

Starling Ottawa, a new ByWard Market restaurant, was planning a grand opening last Friday after protest-related delays.

But that day has come and gone without opening their doors because of inaccessible streets and a heavy police push against protesters, said Ryan Quennell, the restaurant’s general manager.

It also faced another setback after two people broke in on Saturday, taking much of the restaurant’s high-end liquor inventory.

The theft, captured by company security cameras, is being investigated by the Ottawa Police Service Break and Enter Unit.

“That convoy of truckers that had descended on Wellington and downtown was 10 times worse than the pandemic has ever been,” he said.

Radio Canada

Radio Canada

Staff were already feeling uneasy before the burglary, which was “icing on the cake”, Quennell added.

On the same day the restaurant was robbed, the federal government announced it would pay $20 million to Ottawa businesses affected by the protests.

Mayor Jim Watson then signaled that City Council would discuss a host of additional financial relief measures intended to help businesses recover at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

Michael A. Bynum