Tim Hortons patron denied service after refusing to give contact tracing info

·3 min read

A 74-year-old man was denied service at a Tim Hortons after he refused to give his personal information for contact tracing.

Mike Baric says he’s gone to the same Tim Hortons on Concession Street every morning for more than a decade to drink coffee and read the newspaper. Once COVID-19 hit, the former Hamilton Farmers’ Market butcher said he only stepped inside to buy his coffee, which he’d drink on the patio.

He says employees asked him twice over the past few months for his contact information, which he declined to provide. On a visit in mid-October, he said he was drinking coffee on the patio when an employee approached him for contact information. This time, when he refused, Baric said the employee told him to leave and threatened to call police.

When he showed up at the outlet two days later, he says staff refused to serve him.

“If I have to do it, I do it. If I don’t have to, I don’t want to do it,” Baric said on why didn’t provide his contact information. He said he regularly observes COVID-19 precautions. “I go nowhere, I wear a mask even in my car. That’s why I sit outside (on the patio).”

The experience has left him bitter. He says he’ll never go back to Tim Hortons.

In an email, Tim Hortons spokesperson Meghan Giffin said the restaurant collects contact information to comply with public health requirements.

“Tim Hortons team members respectfully and politely request contact information from guests whenever required to do so, and we ask our guests to respect the orders of public health officials,” Giffin said. “Should a guest refuse to co-operate with the measures put in place by public health officials, they will be politely asked to leave to protect the health and safety of other guests and team members.”

The city declined to comment on the specific case, but in an email, communications officer Jacqueline Durlov said refusing service is allowed if an establishment chooses to go above and beyond public health measures.

“But that is ... beyond the scope of the city’s involvement,” she said.

Provincial rules for regions in Stage 3 say restaurants and bars must collect the name and contact information of “one person per party” in both indoor and outdoor dining areas. They must keep those records for at least one month, and only disclose them to a medical officer of health or an inspector on request.

Guests who enter the area briefly “to place, pick up or pay for a takeout order,” are exempt.

Contact tracing is one of the key ways public health informs people if they were potentially exposed to COVID-19.

In the case of SpinCo — the Hamilton spin studio which had an outbreak linked to 85 cases — experts said the outbreak could have been prevented or significantly reduced if testing and contact tracing had been done quicker.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said at a briefing on Oct. 29 that contact tracing helps inform patrons in gyms, restaurants, and other settings about possible exposures to COVID-19.

“We keep a log of who is there because if there is an exposure … they would like to make sure that those other people at that time who might have been exposed are informed in a timely way,” he said.

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator