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

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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