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Inglewood businesses suffer through multiple protests outside Without Papers Pizza

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CALGARY -

Area business owners say ongoing protests outside Without Papers Pizza in Inglewood are hurting their bottom line at a time they can least afford it.

The restaurant was forced to shut down earlier this month after the owner refused to check customers' proof of vaccination and failed to display signage outlining rules of the Restriction Exemption Program (REP), which is required under ongoing provincial COVID-19 health measures. This drew supporters to the establishment.

There have been at least a dozen gatherings, including one Thursday evening where controversial street preacher Artur Pawlowski was in attendance. 

At least one area business owner says the crowds have hurt his bottoms line. 

“We support the right to protest and they’ve been really friendly but our business has suffered quite a bit,” said Pieter Boekhoff, owner of Madison’s 12I12.

Boekhoff says since the rallies started, revenue has gone down 40 per cent week-over-week, which is more salt in the wound for a business already suffering during the pandemic.

“We get a lot of walk-by traffic and people are afraid to come in so they cross the street when they see all those people out there. They are on blankets, right on the sidewalk in front of our restaurant,” he said.

The owner of Without Papers Pizza, Jesse Johnson, did not want to appear on camera but told CTV News the gatherings, specifically the picnics, in front of his restaurant are organized by Frontline 4 Freedom and not him.

“I believe the bylaw is discriminatory and promotes segregation. The people that come to these picnics represent all of society, just as the unvaccinated does," he said.

"I would suggest to business owners that rather than lock their doors in fear, they should open them widely and respect the many people as they were just six short weeks ago, customers.”

Rebecca O’Brien, executive director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area, says the issue has been challenging.

“Boutiques have had to close their shops, like literally close for the day because they can’t manage both the customers and the protestors, and their customers are so deeply rattled by the experience,” she said.

“If you got to protest and make a point and get attention on that point then OK, but don’t do it at the loss of small local businesses who have been challenged at every step of the way over the last three years.”

Boekhoff says he is sad Without Paper Pizza eventually closed for good as they have been neighbours and friends for years but he doesn’t want to also be forced to shutter permanently due to protestors.

“There is a huge parking lot down the street that we’d love to see them rally in and make a lot of noise and get the word out but clogging up an entire sidewalk half a block is really detrimental to us and I don’t think they realize that,” he said.

Johnson says he understands how other businesses may be impacted by the protests as said he will suggest to the rally organizers to move to the parking lot on the corner of the block.

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