Calgary’s Broken City at odds with customers over face-covering policy

Clients ready to submit complaints to Human Rights Commission over expulsion from club

The owner of Broken City wonders how many customers he'll lose on nice days if the city allows people to drink in public parks. BRODIE THOMAS / LIVEWIRE

A comedy night at a local Calgary bar turned sour after some patrons were turned away for not wearing face coverings on Monday night.

Broken City, a well-known live music and comedy venue in Calgary’s Beltline, has been the subject of scrutiny after their staff asked clients to leave because they weren’t wearing face-coverings.

Staff at the bar say they have been enforcing their mask policy since the city implemented the bylaw on Aug. 1

But with a recent surge in numbers and the possibility of a second lockdown looming, Broken City says their priority is decreasing the spread of the virus, while trying stay open and protect their staff.

“The COVID numbers have increased within bars since some of the restrictions have been lifted and we will be moving forward, at any means necessary to help to stop the spread,” read a post on the venue’s Facebook page.

On Tuesday (Oct 13.) Alberta recorded 961 new cases of COVID-19 since the last update, which was four days.

Andrew Brassard, the owner of Broken City, said they will do what it takes to protect their staff and customers.

“We don’t have to enforce it,” he said.

“We’re just trying to be smart and not lose staff members, not lose customers over what we think is a fairly minor inconvenience.”

The bylaw mandates that all citizens wear masks indoors in public spaces, but it also provides a list of exceptions, including people with underlying medical conditions or disabilities inhibiting their ability to wear a face covering.

Medically exempt

Jenn Thompson headed to Broken City on Monday night, but after paying to get in, she says she was asked to leave for not wearing a face covering.

“They [Broken City staff] said they are sticking to the bylaw,” said Thompson.

“But I recalled the bylaw has exemptions.”

Thompson, who suffers from autism spectrum disorder and complex concurrent traumatic stress disorder from facial trauma, believes that her rights were violated. She said she was discriminated against for being asked to leave.

“I am filling out a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission for being denied entry specifically under the rights of persons with disabilities,” she said.

Thompson recalls that she previously tried to put on a mask at the bar, but it triggered a reaction.

“A few weeks earlier, the attempt to mask caused me to have a panic attack,” she said.

Thompson describes herself as a supporter of the business, but said she was disappointed and embarrassed with what happened. She also added that she doesn’t have a problem with people who wear masks, and assumes that those who don’t are medically exempt.

‘We have to look out for all of our customers’

In their Facebook post addressing the situation, Broken City restated that the protection of their customers is their priority.

“We are aware that you are not required to wear a mask if you have any health issue that makes you exempt but unfortunately we will not be letting anyone inside the building unless you are wearing a mask,” read the post.

“We have to look out for all of our customers and that means taking a firm stance with our policy.”

It was met with scrutiny from many people, including Lori Clark, who commented saying that this is a violation of the city of Calgary’s mandate, and that Broken City’s policy is discriminatory.

“No one’s dying from this anymore,” said Clark.

“I see a lot of human rights lawsuits if you continue your discrimination and I hope you lose a ton of business.”

Many businesses have struggled through the pandemic, and Broken City is no exception.

Brassard said that he’s just trying to keep his bar open and keep everyone safe.

“We’re just trying to make the best decision to keep our staff employed,” he said.

“Small business owners are just as confused about all this stuff.”

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  1. Stupid is as stupid does. False statement that no one is dying from Covid anymore. I can confirm that is untrue and a poor perspective. I definitely will be making an effort to support this establishment in the future, and will encourage others to do the same! If you have any form of PTSD, you’d think putting yourself in a situation that may cause a trigger would be the last thing you would do, and to go to a bar? Sorry, hard to feel sorry for you that your human rights have been violated not being allowed into a BAR!! If you get sick and need the paramedics or need to go to the hospital to see a physician and nursing staff, guess what, here comes that mask, no exceptions!!

    • It’s not going to the bar that triggers PTSD for some people, it’s wearing a mask because it lowers oxygen levels. The concept of medical autonomy is one that should be protected, for reasons beyond masking.
      Masking policies at the hospital are also violating human rights and need to be looked at logically instead of fearfully.
      You’re also assuming that masks provide protection from viruses – they don’t and it says this on the box. And if the mask was your main tool of defense against a deadly virus, I’m guessing you wouldn’t take it off to drink a beer in public. Or can it only get you at the door, or on your way to the bathroom?

    • Actually you are incorrect. I am exempt & am not required to wear a mask at the dentist, physiotherapist or the hospital!

  2. I support the basic human rights of the disabled and will no be supporting this establishment in the future, the fact people think its ok to insist that people with disabilities stay home and be isolated from the rest of society is appalling to me, the people living in fear of this virus should be the ones staying home.

  3. The lies continue, here are facts, not opinion. Cases do not indicate infection. The tests do not test for a virus. The numbers during this so called pandemic are easily compared and calculated to past flu seasons and no morbidity increased. Since the beginning of this year the guidelines for death certificates has changed to allow falsifying the death certificates by adding this “virus” without proper testing or indication and that includes the severe lack of autopsies, which were also not to be performed. There is a compounding list of information coming out, not to mention a huge lawsuit (Rocco Galati) against the government of Canada against the restrictions that have been causing more harm than a “virus” that has not be purified and isolated to this very day and the testing process they are using to show “cases” cannot be relied upon since there is no virus to compare to and the test itself is an amplification test not a diagnostic test. Not to mention other movements and calls to action around the world. With that it can literally be used in a manner to show a positive or negative depending on the amount of cycles a sample is spun through. How about asking one simple questions, why implement a mask mandate well after the peak of flu season at all? Or past flu seasons have left us with very similar or worse numbers, why mask for one with a 99.98% recovery rate and a very very low level of spreading infection? (Viruses have never been shown to actually be the cause of disease, or suspected. No experiment or lab tests have shown conclusively, fact.) Maybe do some aricles on these very important facts instead of continuing to push the lie that is literally destroying our global economy, not just within the invisible borders of Canada. I’m personally in supporting businesses fully opening and being able to again as their right under the Charter of Freedom and Rights to make a living! These mandates are under false pretenses and these business owners should be doing their own research and understand how they are being purposely harmed.

  4. I agree with Jake. The CDC’s own stats show that COVID has been made into a bogeyman (fear mongering us rampant). Death rates are only slightly higher than a normal flu season and it’s always the elderly, with pre-existing health issues, that succumb. Others that have gotten this flu have an almost a 100% recovery rate. Children getting it are a rarity and yet they are required to wear masks, which I believe, is child abuse. Masks have also repeatedly been shown to be unhealthy if worn for any length of time. People are being bullied and shamed into compliance with this By-Law which, indeed, is a trampling on our Charter of Rights and individual freedoms. We are being pushed into living in a fascist society and we need to realize this.

  5. Businesses have a requirement to make reasonable accommodations for those with medical or religious exemptions. Sounds like this business isn’t even trying.

    This place serves food and beverages correct? Everyone siting down is exempt by the bylaw (whether they actually order anything or not). In this case it could be argued that allowing someone to go from the door to their seat without is entirely reasonable.

    I see this as a clearcut win for Thompson.

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