Business owners who opposed heavy handed pandemic restrictions secured another victory this week after the City of Calgary dropped all charges against Jesse Johnson, owner of Without Papers Pizza.
After a prolonged legal battle, the charges against Johnson, related to non-compliance with Covid-19 public health orders, were dismissed by a Calgary court.
This decision follows a constitutional challenge led by The Democracy Fund (TDF) lawyers Martin Rejman and Chad Williamson.
In October 2021, Without Papers Pizza faced charges for violating several city bylaws. This action followed the suspension of its business license, a consequence of the businesses alleged non-compliance with public health mandates.
The pizzeria was accused of allowing customers on the premises without vaccination verification and failing to exhibit mandatory health order signage, contravening regulations set forth by the City of Calgary.
Undercover inspectors, who were allowed to buy and consume pizza on-site without showing vaccination proof, substantiated the charges against the restaurant.
Johnson, who refused to enforce Alberta’s vaccine passport policy during the lockdown, received widespread support from the public. The policy, introduced by then-premier Jason Kenney, was challenged by Johnson, asserting the right to medical privacy for his patrons.
The court hearing, lasting merely 10 minutes, ended with the acquittal of Johnson, much to the joy of his supporters who gathered at the courthouse.
Johnson’s legal defence, crowdfunded through FightVaccinePassports.com and backed by TDF, a Canadian civil liberties organization, highlighted the community’s support for his stance.
The ordeal, however, took a heavy toll on Without Papers Pizza, once a celebrated establishment in Calgary known for its community support and acclaimed pizza.
A TDF news release claimed, “The establishment was frequently voted as having the best pizza in Calgary.”
The pizzeria faced insolvency due to the enforcement of the provincial health orders.
Johnson’s ordeal has been seen by many as a fight for fundamental freedoms with implications beyond business compliance.
This legal victory was what several supporters of Johnson and Without Papers Pizza hoped for, noting that Johnson had lost everything fighting for his customers’ right to medical privacy, according to Rebel News.