A Tim Hortons coffee-and-donut shop in Magog, Quebec (AFP / Robert MacPherson)

Articles spread Tim Hortons closure hoax in Canada

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Two articles claiming that iconic coffee chain Tim Hortons will close all Canada franchises on March 30, 2020 because of the novel coronavirus were shared more than 150,000 times on Facebook. This is false; though locations are closed to dining-in, drive-throughs remain open, a spokeswoman for the chain told AFP.

“Tim Hortons Canada just closed all restaurants, drive-thru and delivery,” reads the headline of two identical articles widely shared in Canada over less than two days.

Collage of the two false headlines as they appeared on March 27, 2020

However, the articles are false. 

“The information in the Canada-Eh article is completely false,” Mary Lowe, a spokeswoman for the corporation, told AFP by email.

“Tim Hortons continues to welcome guests for take-out purchases, drive-thru orders and where available delivery,” Lowe added. 

Tim Hortons claims 80 percent of Canadians visit a location at least once a month, and the Canadian founded, US-owned corporation is Canada’s largest restaurant chain -- known for its connection to Canadian national identity.

The two websites that published the article have visually similar layouts and sometimes coordinate content publication with two others, Toronto-Ontario.news and Canada 1867. AFP Fact Check has found all four websites have published false news several times in the past.

Throughout Canada, smaller food and dining establishments have been negatively impacted by social distancing measures taken by local and provincial governments, with most restaurants open for take-out only. 

AFP Fact Check has investigated more than 190 false and misleading claims about the novel coronavirus.