Adam Skelly is No Champion for Small Business - New Canadian Media
adam skelly adamson bbq covid-19 restaurant regulations canada

Adam Skelly is No Champion for Small Business

Columnist Marcus Medford writes on Etobicoke restaurant owner’s entitled behaviour and decision to open his restaurant for indoor dining despite COVID-19 restrictions.

This year has been a nightmare for small-business owners in Canada. One-in-seven small businesses are at risk of going under or are considering bankruptcy or winding down their operations because of COVID-19 a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) report found. The report says we could lose between 55,000 (5 per cent) and 218,000 (19 per cent) businesses depending on how the recovery goes. Most business owners have experienced decreased revenues, forced layoffs, and significant operational changes responding to pandemic restrictions.

Yet, Adam Skelly thinks he and his restaurant are more important than anyone, any law or any business. And it’s maddening.

Skelly owns three restaurants in Toronto called Adamson BBQ. For three consecutive days following the Ontario government’s announcement that Toronto would move into “grey zone” lockdown, Skelly defiantly opened his Etobicoke restaurant for indoor dining. To make matters worse, dozens of people — many of whom were unmasked — gathered outside the restaurant to protest government restrictions. Which is dangerous and counterproductive. 

Under Ontario’s grey classification, restaurants, bars and food or drink establishments are limited to takeout, delivery and drive-through. Skelly was arrested on November 26, and faces at least nine charges. If found guilty of violating the Reopening Act, he could be fined up to $500,000, and spend up to one-year imprisonment. 

Skelly and his defenders argue that they’re standing up for individual rights and the livelihoods of small-business owners. But all it really is is an egregious example of entitlement and white privilege.

Skelly’s privilege and entitlement 

Blatant disregard for the law isn’t limited to the pandemic. A Toronto Star report revealed that two of Skelly’s three restaurants have been operating without a business license. The first of the three restaurants opened in 2016 and has never had a business license. Skelly and his corporation have been convicted three times for not having the license, and he’s paid a total of $800. 

It costs $510.65 to get your business license plus a $307.80 annual renewal fee. Meanwhile, the maximum fine for an individual convicted of operating without a license is $25,000. Twice that for a corporation. To say that Skelly got away with a slap on the wrist is an understatement.

Skelly blamed “tight cash flow” and signing the lease for his Etobicoke restaurant days before the first lockdown as the reason why it doesn’t have a business license, according to The Star. As if that’s a valid excuse. Statistics Canada found that 60 per cent of businesses reported a revenue loss of 20 per cent or more comparing Q1-2019 to Q1-2020.

According to a Black Business and Professional Association survey, 80 per cent of Black-owned businesses lacked the cash reserves necessary to meet financial obligations in April. Nearly all of the respondents worried that they’d have to close permanently.

It’s not fair

Skelly purports himself as a champion for freedom and small businesses but that’s just a convenient facade. His cries of “we won’t let the government determine what is and isn’t essential,” is really just bellyaching at the fact that he can’t have his way. He’s not a hero, he’s selfish.

Premier Doug Ford said “it’s not fair” that small businesses have to close and I agree, it’s not. But it affects everyone and that’s fair. Skelly circumventing the law to get an advantage, that’s unfair. His sense of entitlement and positioning himself as the victim is disgusting.

Skelly, a 33-year-old white male, was able to operate his restaurant for four years without a license. Meanwhile, initiatives to help people experiencing homelessness or fight food insecurity were shut down after two and four months, respectively. 

A GoFundMe campaign was started to raise money for Skelly’s legal fees shortly after his arrest. In the 10 days it’s been active, the campaign’s generated at least $319,733. Which is ridiculous. Despite his dishevelled appearance, Skelly comes from money. He owns three businesses and his father owned the property where he opened his first smokehouse. This is not someone who needs or deserves the money and attention he’s garnered.

That’s what’s irked most about this whole ordeal. This dumpster fire of a story takes up so much oxygen. Thousands of businesses are at risk of closing permanently that haven’t got a fraction of the attention or support as Skelly. Crews and Tangos is a staple of Toronto’s Gay Village, and one of the few venues where you can see drag performances and drag performers can earn a living. The iconic gay bar is at risk of closing down forever because of the pandemic. Its crowdfunding campaign, which started the same week as Skelly’s, has only raised $21,519. 

The pandemic has ravaged the economy and left many businesses languishing. Now more than ever, with the holidays around the corner, it’s important to support the businesses you care about and the businesses that need it most. Not entitled brats who put profit over people.

Marcus is a poet, editor and freelance journalist based in Toronto. He currently works with New Canadian Media as an Editor and as a Freelance Writer for ByBlacks.com, The Edge: A Leader's Magazine and The Soapbox Press.

10 Replies to “Adam Skelly is No Champion for Small Business”

    1. Hi Lin. If all you see in this article is “black this, and white that” it’s because you’ve chosen to ignore a majority of the article. Race was only mentioned twice. This is about the fact that businesses and failing and people are dying but Skelly is acting like nine of that matters because he wants people to dine inside his restaurant.

    2. It’s an example of white privilege so no duh he’s going to speak on it. If you’re uncomfortable and looking for a censored version why are you even involving your opinion. Calling the journalist a name makes you sound like an actual child.

  1. Horribly written article. Where is Skelly’s White Privilege evident? BLM protested for months in the middle of a ‘pandemic’ without being shut down. Skelly is speaking for ALL small business owners, regardless of race, if they had any balls they’d join him.
    Unfortunately, this wanna be journalist, is using tried and tested click bait to get ahead. Another, sad example of the fall of journalism.
    .

    1. His white privilege is evident in the fact that he’s broken the law on three separate occasions by operating without a business license and instead of paying the $150,000 he could’ve paid as a corporation or having his business shutdown, he paid 0.5% of the maximum charge and was allowed to open a new location. That kind of leniency is almost never afforded to people of colour for breaking any kind of rule.

      1. The BLM protests were not happening during the peak of the pandemic. Evidence has shown that no rise in cases could be attributed to BLM protests. Here or in the States. https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/black-lives-matter-protests-have-not-led-to-a-spike-in-coronavirus-cases-research-says-1.4997503
      2. For almost all of the BLM protests that occurred, they were authorized and approved. Organizers were required to meet pubic health protocols or they would not have been allowed to gather. Look back at the pictures and you can see people wearing masks or see the plans organizers laid out for people to physically distance.

      Skelly is not speaking for all businesses because he is playing by his own set of rules that no other small business is. I’m talking about operating without a license but I’m also talking about running his business in the pandemic. You and a lot of people like to ignore the fact that Skelly could have solely operated doing pick-up and delivery like other restaurants and chose not to. He’s not raising money to help support other businesses, he’s using money he raised from other people to pay for his arrogance and negligence. If you think purposely endangering other people’s health for your own personal gain shows that you have balls, then you have a disgustingly misguided sense of priorities and a poor understanding of masculinity. And going back to white privilege, if business owners of colour did the same things Skelly is, they would be met with much harsher consequences.

      I have serious doubts about your understanding of clickbait, or the journalism industry as a whole, and I know you don’t know a thing about me and my career so kindly go inform yourself before you run off your mouth.

    2. Oh yeah real “hero” who isn’t doing anything for small business. Why don’t you take your dumb ass narrative somewhere else because all I see here is a rich white guy getting more money and nothing but endless support from notorious neo nazi leaders in Canada. But yeah go off about black people some more.

  2. Thank you for speaking on it. The white privilege being demonstrated is disgusting and I don’t understand peoples need to stand up for a man doing nothing for them. Good work!

  3. This is not about any privilege.

    This isn’t about race. Race is a serious issue. But making this kind of issue race related is demeaning to all.

    This is about an ignorant individual. An individual who disregarded public safety issues and may be responsible for the deaths of people who gathered at his business became ill and died from covid.

    He could be a fucking purple octopod from the planet Gorgon for all I care… And I’m not sure he would have been treated differently if he were black. Covid 19 has made the ignorant come out in hoards. People are dying. All over the world they are dying. Covid does not discriminate.

    He should be responsible, he should pay. Those who gathered in support of him should pay. He should be banned from opening any business that is related to public health issues indefinetly.

    Why does China have low covid counts? Because they lie about their numbers? Maybe in times like these, a little bit less democracy is a good thing.

    Do something for the good of those around you. For their health. For their lives. this asshole was not struggling to feed his family. Ok I’m done.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the piece. You’re right, the issue at large is not race, it is about someone doing being cavalier and disrespectful when it comes to the laws and people’s safety. While pretending to champion a cause when he’s really just in it for himself. But race and privilege can’t be left out of the conversation and how we evaluate what happened. I highly doubt he would have been treated the same if he was Black. I think for one he would not have been able to operate two businesses without a license, I also don’t think he would have received such lenient fees.

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