Alberta Health Services pressures landowner to terminate lease of beloved local restaurant

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Rocco Bartolotti, owner of Scarpetta Italian Eatery, has been a member of the community of Inglewood, the neighbourhood in which his restaurant was located, for over eight years.

He made many friends in the area, created good jobs and was generally beloved by patrons, neighbours and even his landlord. The restaurant was doing well, until COVID restrictions began to take an immense toll on his business.

Rocco was not alone in his questioning of government protocols. Scarpetta Italian Eatery was directly across the street from Dustin Sutley’s Sweat Science Boxing, and Dustin too wanted answers and evidence to justify the business closures and restrictions.

No such justification was ever provided to Rocco or Dustin.

To be clear, Rocco is no scofflaw. He was following Alberta Health Services (AHS) restrictions. He shared that several visits from AHS confirmed that no violations were occurring. What is most troubling is that AHS never contacted Rocco to indicate that he was allegedly not complying with restrictions.

Instead, Rocco alleges that AHS shared false reports of measures being ignored with the Calgary Herald, and he was not made aware of any reported issues until someone shared a Calgary Herald article with him. He immediately contacted AHS after being shown the article, and they once again visited the location only to confirm that Scarpetta Italian Eatery was indeed in compliance with health restrictions.

There has been a clear lack of communication and clarity from AHS. One inspector would confirm that certain actions were permissible, but a few days later another inspector would state the opposite, says Rocco.

Most tragic of all, after eight years in business, Rocco says AHS pressured the landowner to terminate Scarpetta Italian Eatery’s lease agreement, effectively closing the restaurant for good, and gave Rocco and his team only two days to clear out their belongings.

A family business is ruined, and because of what appears to be a smear campaign a beloved member of the community of Inglewood has been cast out as an untouchable.

Regardless of bureaucratic blunders and/or outright maliciousness, the mere fact that Rocco maintained open communications with AHS and sought to comply with the rules as much as possible prompts some serious questions.

Firstly, as Rocco asserts, why did AHS release details to a newspaper instead of speaking to him? Is the government now in the business of smearing people as an enforcement measure?

And secondly, and most shockingly, why did Alberta Health Services contact a private land owner and encourage eviction, whether implicitly or directly, of a tenant who had been in good standing for nearly a decade.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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