A crowd of about 20 people gathered to support an Innisfail business when it opened for several hours in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions Tuesday morning.
On Jan. 7, the province announced that rules restricting businesses from opening their doors, like hair salons, will be in place until Jan. 21.
Barber Natalie Klein welcomed her first customer at Bladez 2 Fadez Barbershop at about 9:30 a.m. and was expecting another 15 customers on Tuesday.
“I can go get my dog’s hair cut, but I can’t cut my own son’s hair in my shop. It doesn’t make sense. We need to take a stand on personal services when there hasn’t been one known transmission case of COVID,” said Klein who adheres to the strict COVID cleaning rules and wears a mask.
As of about 11 a.m. Tuesday, the owner had completed two haircuts and was helping a third customer, according to a Facebook post.
Shortly after 1 p.m., two Innisfail RCMP officers, a community peace officer and an Environmental Public Health investigator with Alberta Health Services went to the shop.
“I can advise a public health inspector was there and posted an order to close notice on the door,” said Innisfail RCMP Staff Sgt. Chris Matechuk. “(AHS) will be following up if the business continues operating.”
AHS said hairstyling and barbering services are not permitted to operate under the current public health restrictions. All businesses are required to respect and follow the orders of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, at all times. Businesses that don’t follow the orders are at risk of closure orders or fines.
After 25 years in the industry, Klein said her dream came true on Aug. 7 when she opened her own shop. Unfortunately, the shop was forced to close during the December lockdown like other personal wellness services, including nail salons, massage, tattoos, and piercing.
She said the office administering grants for small and medium businesses impacted by COVID was closed for the holidays and she was still waiting for assistance.
She said COVID-19 is real, but she can’t afford another two-week shutdown.
“How fair is that, to destroy all of the small businesses and let the big box stores thrive. Business owners are now using food banks to feed their families,” Klein said.
Daryl Dyck, her first customer of the day, said he got his hair cut to support the central Alberta business.
“They deserve to be able to keep what they’ve worked so hard for and not let the government take it away. Unless the government is going to pay for their lease, their wages, their mortgages, their utilities, they have no right telling them when they can and cannot be open,” said Dyck, of Red Deer.
Klein said her uncle, former premier Ralph Klein, would have wanted her to take a stand for Alberta small business owners.
“He was a man for the people and I’m trying to speak out for the people. Somebody has to stand up and say this is not right,” Klein said.
Glen Carritt, who was among the supporters outside the barbershop, said he has publicly supported the shop and resigned his position as Innisfail town councillor after council saw it as a breach of conduct.
“I support small businesses and they didn’t want to stand behind my stance. I don’t necessarily support doing it illegally, but these people shouldn’t have to choose between illegal and survival,” said Carritt, who is also the founder of United We Roll For Canada, known for its convoy to Ottawa in 2019 to champion the oil and gas sector.
“I think we have a problem with government when government officials can’t speak for people. I am out here to support small business.”
Carritt said restrictions should instead be focused on places like senior care facilities where COVID is spreading.
Another concerned business owner, who stood outside the barbershop, agreed that small business needs support.
“It perplexes me that you can go to Costco, you can go to Walmart, and a cashier can see maybe 200 or 300 or 500 or 1,000 people in a day and a hair salon can’t see 10,” said the business owner who did not want to be named.
He said the government’s strategy has flaws.
“The second round of lockdowns, and extension, is certainly going to be devastating to this province.”