By the end of 2021 many restaurants in Calgary had quietly closed their doors for good, some had caved to the Covid regimes covenant, and only too few decided that enough was enough.
Without Papers Pizza was a favorite spot for Calgarians. Inglewood, the oldest part of the city was not yet completely gentrified when WOP opened. It was the perfect mix of inner city class and early western industriousness, bordering rail yards to the east, office towers to the west and the mighty Bow River to the north.
Jesse Johnson was born and raised in Calgary. He had built a comfortable lifestyle as a restauranteur in the up-and-coming lower east side of his city. Without Papers Pizza was a friendly, classy place in a part of the city that had formerly suffered from a bad reputation, a reputation due to its laissez faire approach to difficult social subjects such as drug addiction and sex work.
Having lived and worked in Inglewood myself for many years, the one thing I can say is that it was a wonderful community, supportive and understanding of the hard-done-by and downtrodden. But when Jesse Johnson took up the mantle which represented that community - his community - he was met with retribution and scorn.
Jesse refused to enforce the vaccine passport program in his restaurant. He lost everything because he believed that all Canadians are equal and that everyone has a right to sit down with family and friends and enjoy a meal. He lost everything for serving an unvaccinated man a slice of pizza.
It’s hard to believe, when we look back only one year, at the insane groupthink that gripped the entire world, that this one restaurant owner and his few patrons couldn’t just be left alone.
Jesse received calls of support from all over the world. He had given people hope when all hope was lost, but he paid the price one does when you take on a tyrannical state.
Years ago, I spent many evenings at Without Papers. I especially liked the olives. I would have always remembered the place with fondness, now I’ll remember it as a bastion of liberty, something that defended a belief that is disappearing.