Tensions were high last week after it was announced that the Alberta lockdown would be extended until January 21, 2021. Small business owners all up and down Alberta are probably the most anxious for the province to re-open. With that being said, several owners were in protest to this extension and promised to go back to work Monday the 11th in protest. One owner attempting to stand his ground was Will Woods, the owner of The Peppermint Hippo, a staple tattoo shop in Lethridge, Alberta.
Woods was not allowing his staff to perform any body art services but was open to have consults with clients and make future appointments. The police were notified and walked into the shop and handed Woods an order to appear in court on the 22nd of this month.
Law enforcement have informed the public that this business has been charged for non-compliance in regards to Section 73(1) of the Public Health Act. However Will and his employees are unsure of why they would be unable to work as they have high standards of cleanliness and have never failed a health inspection. Woods also stated, “The police said that if they have to come back it’s going to be a fine and probably a large fine to make an example out of me.”
Woods has been an active member in the Lethbridge community for 11 years, raising nearly $150,000 for sponsorships and aiding others in our community. As a grand gesture of thanks, the charges against Will and the Peppermint Hippo could put him out of business permanently. Will responds to this by saying, “For them to turn around and tell me that they are going to take me out of business for life in Lethbridge? It’s kind of a kick in the nuts.”
To date there have still not been any COVID-19 cases linked to tattoo shops in Alberta as has been confirmed with AHS officials.
Other Business owners are noticing a similar form of treatment. Lee Mein, owner of the Canadian Martial Arts Center, had announced his desire to get back to business and was ready to throw open the doors to his dojo on January 11. Some were stumped when the day came and he remained closed instead. Mein explained that he had received a letter from AHS the previous friday.
“Basically they are being bullies,” says Mein. “They are threatening action against me in court, threatening to lock the doors and lose my business license.” Both Woods and Mein plan to continue to fight charges and restrictions.
Southern Roots Hair design owner Davita Deering is in the throws of a struggle to maintain her business. Currently she is running a bottle drive to try and make her rent payment and not lose her business space. “I used almost all my savings to keep us afloat… there’s no more nestegg.” said Deering.
She also noted that the government desperately needs to look into how small businesses operate. A few of her employees do not qualify for EI and are still waiting for their CERB payments.
Numerous online petitions have been started, the most noteworthy being, “Enough is Enough- Help Small Businesses Survive”. This specific petition was started by Daryl Burton who decided to take action after seeing salon owner friends of hers as well as her own brother struggle to keep their businesses afloat. She states that, “None of them have gotten any assistance whatsoever.”
It’s important to note that even the large Chinook mall in Calgary, Ab, (as well as several other malls in the province) remained open throughout the christmas holidays. Although the stores were required to limit the amount of people shopping in them, entrances and exits were not limited to the building itself and the amount of shoppers just let into the building has yet to be limited. Big box stores like Walmart, dollar stores, clothing stores, etc. remained open as well without having business interrupting restrictions. So saying, the questions of why small businesses that more than likely have a hard time drumming up business in regular work conditions, would not be allowed to stay open and operational? Why not give them restrictions like all the other stores? Lastly, when is the government going to shift its focus back to the people and off their own pockets?