Mayor Violates COVID Restrictions at Restaurant After Calling for 'Zero Tolerance Approach'

Hours after calling for a "zero tolerance approach" for enforcing coronavirus rules, a Canadian mayor violated the city's own COVID-19 regulations last Wednesday.

A photo posted to Instagram showed Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens attending an eight-person dinner at a time when social distancing rules capped the limit of people at six.

Last Wednesday, Windsor-Essex was classified as yellow "protect" status under the province's coronavirus response framework. The "strengthened measures" level limits the number of people allowed to be seated at the same restaurant table to six.

Since then, the region has moved into the orange "restrict" level, which will tighten capacity to four people per table.

After coming under criticism for defying the rules he insisted on enforcing, Dilkens called the incident an "unfortunate error on my part" and announced that he would donate the equivalent of what he would have been fined, which was $750. He said he did not receive a ticket or a notice of bylaw infraction.

"Listen, I made a mistake, I own up to it, I'm accountable for it, I should have known," Dilkens said at the end of a Monday council meeting.

"As mayor, there is responsibility for me to lead by example and showcase to all in our region that we need to follow all restrictions and guidelines to the letter," he said in his statement.

The mayor noted that at the time the dinner had been organized, regulations allowed for as many as 10 people to be seated together indoors. Dilkens said he did not know the limits had changed when he attended the dinner.

"At the end of the day it's my responsibility to know and I'm the one who is ultimately at fault here for not stepping away from the table or saying we have to split the party up. So I'll take my lumps and move on," he said.

"That will ultimately be the most expensive dinner I ever had but it's the right thing to do in my position," he added.

He said the money will be donated to Windsor Goodfellows, a local foundation known for its annual holiday charity drive.

Andrew Teliszewsky, chief of staff for the office of the mayor told Newsweek that Dilkens is "committed to doing his part to follow all active pandemic restrictions."

Drew Dilkens
Drew Dilkens pictured alongside Ontario Premier Doug Ford and others at the Nico Taverna restaurant on August 16, 2020. Dilkens returned to the restaurant last week for an eight-person dinner which violated the region's current COID-19 rules. Twitter: @drewdilkens

In his statement, Dilkens said two other guests at the dinner will also make donations of $750.

CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island Gordon Orr is donating his money to Maryvale Adolescent and Family Services, a children's mental health treatment center. Tish Harcus, a brand ambassador for Canadian Club Whisky, will donate her $750 to Hiatus House Windsor, an organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence.

Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said the mayor and his guests were not fined because it is difficult for the city to "charge someone when the officer is not on site to observe the infraction."

"If our staff were on site, and they noticed that infraction, they probably would have issued the ticket," Ahmed told CTV News.

The owner of the restaurant also admitted to fault for allowing the dinner of eight to happen.

"We kind of just let them do it. I don't really have a good explanation," owner of Nico Taverna, Nick Politi, told CBC. "Things like that, with a few extra people at a table, we've been a little bit [relaxed] on I'll confess."