Local diner owner’s clash with health officers goes viral

A screenshot of video showing restaurant owner Sherry Stewart, left, confronting public health officials who warned her she could be charged for defying health restrictions by remaining open. Online Image

Tara Jeffrey

Sarnia’s infamous lockdown-defying diner has drawn the admiration of Donald Trump Jr. after a video of Leaky Tank owner Sherry Stewart clashing with public health officials went viral this week.

“This brave restaurant owner STANDS UP to tyrannical lockdown enforcers,” read a post on the official Facebook page of the Republican Party figure and son of former U.S. president Donald Trump. “We love to see it!”

The original video, posted Jan. 14 to the Leaky Tank’s Facebook page, shows public health officials attending the Degurse Drive restaurant to speak with Stewart about provincial restrictions, including a ban on indoor dining that began Jan. 5.

“I’m letting you know — you’re in provincial lockdown right now — restaurants are not allowed to be open,” one of two Lambton Public Health enforcement officers in the video states. “If you do not shut this down and follow provincial rules, there will be charges coming.”

The officers were joined by Sarnia Police and an inspector with the Ministry of Labour, the health unit said.

“I’m not under provincial jurisdiction ever — you’re on sovereign land,” Stewart responds. “They’re making this [expletive] rules up as they go…these are not constitutional laws on any human being.

“You’re trying to put me into starvation.”

In May 2021, the diner located on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation was charged after allowing indoor dining during the province’s stay-at-home order — despite warnings from police — and fined $880 under the Reopening Ontario Act. Last fall, Stewart told The Journal she would not be complying with vaccine passport requirements or mask mandates.

No new charges have been laid, said Lambton Public Health promotion officer Mike Gorgey.

“There are some complexities, obviously, with this establishment’s location that are being thoroughly investigated,” he said.

“That’s not to say they won’t (lay charges) … but right now, we’re in communications with the First Nation. That’s an ongoing conversation.”

The video follows health officials as they exit the restaurant. Diners can be heard cheering and calling them “Nazis.”

“You guys are awful — why don’t you go live in communist China,” Stewart shouts out the door, calling the officers Brownshirts, a reference to Adolf Hitler’s storm troopers.

“Get the [expletive] out and don’t come back.”

Health promotion manager Mike Gorgey said the incident was distressing for the officers.

“I think it’s very challenging to be called names and be exposed to that kind of vitriol,” he said. “Obviously if you look at the social media response on that, as a theme, it’s quite negative towards our staff and those officers who were just conducting an inspection of an operator that’s clearly doing things that are not allowed at this time.

“We’ve taken all those threats very seriously,” he added, “and are working with our organization to ensure the safety of our officers and that they have all the assistance they need to do their job.”