Crowd swamps free lunch at Mandarin in Rexdale
Published Wednesday, July 1, 2009 4:32PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 11:14PM EDT
Hundreds of people found out at two Mandarin Restaurant locations that while there is such a thing as a free lunch, you might pay in frustration.
Owner James Chiu offered a free lunch on Canada Day at any of the Chinese buffet chain's 21 locations for anyone offering proof of Canadian citizenship.
This is the third time he's offered such a deal, having previously done so in 1996 and 2003. A banner outside the restaurant said, "Thank you, Canada!"
At 200 Queen's Plate Dr. in Rexdale, some people started lining up at 5:30 a.m. for the treat, even though the restaurant wouldn't start serving until noon. Even then, it opened 40 minutes late, CTV Toronto's John Musselman said.
The lineup eventually stretched right around the restaurant. People were let in three at a time.
There were some paid-duty police officers on scene, but the huge crowd soon started jostling -- something fueled in part by wrong information circling amongst people.
"Don't push! Stop!" one man yelled at the surging crowd, while another added, "watch the kids."
No real violence erupted, but six extra police cars were dispatched to the scene to restore order.
"It was just a big line-up of people wanting free lunch," Sgt. Jeff Attenborough told ctvtoronto.ca, adding no charges were laid.
Some attending at the Rexdale location told CTV Toronto that many people in line were either old, sick or very young. While they appreciated the company's generous offer, they suggested more organization should go into the event. Many ended up not getting in at all.
"It's sad -- look at the neighbourhood. It's Rexdale," Ash Henry told CTV Toronto, referring to the fact that many low-income people call Rexdale home. "Especially on Canada Day, since all the events were cancelled downtown because of the strike."
Big crowds were also reported at the Mandarin's Scarborough location at Birchmount Road and Eglinton Avenue East, but other locations didn't have crowd-control problems.
While it's a long way from Rexdale, 1,200 free butter tarts were available at Harbourfront Centre.
With files from CTV Toronto's John Musselman