Some local hair salons and personal services businesses are getting frustrated with their continued forced closure by the province.
Terri Harasiuk, owner of Simple Pleasures Salon & Boutique in Vermilion, is just one of the dozens of businesses closed for the past five weeks and feels the continued shutdown is difficult on small businesses.
“It is difficult for us all to try and play catch up. The only definition to essential jobs and services is that all jobs are essential. Every job is essential to someone. Period. Every person needs to be able to pay bills, feed their family, maintain their mental health,” said Harasiuk.
“With shutdowns many of us are struggling to do this,” she said.
An online petition on Change.org has over 14,000 “signatures” that urges the Alberta Government to allow the beauty industry back to work. Hair and nail salons have been closed since Dec. 13 along with dine-in restaurants, gyms, and other personal services.
Bonnyville spa Elegance 719 shared the petition on their social media, saying the forced closures and lockdowns of their business and others are unjust after being highlighted by Premier Jason Kenney for having no COVID-19 cases linked to these services.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson said he is hearing these concerns from constituents and the topic has dominated provincial caucus meetings in recent days.
“I hear the frustration. I can tell you as a representative for the area, [we are] pushing within caucus to go for a more regional approach and try and get some of these businesses open,” said Hanson.
“I’m hoping that people will kind of just bear with me and I’ll do my best to get the restrictions lifted as soon as we can.”
When asked about business closures, and reports elsewhere in Alberta that some shops are opening despite the health regulations, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during Tuesday’s daily briefing that she recognizes the challenge for these business owners, but a balanced approach is needed.
“I recognize that business owners are being impacted by the restrictions, and that these are causing hardships for many individuals. I also recognize that if we do not have an approach that involves all of our community members working together to prevent spread, we risk having more deaths, and increasing that burden on our healthcare system,” said Hinshaw.
Local officials going to bat for businesses
Bonnyville town council discussed the health restrictions’ impact on local businesses during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Mayor Gene Sobolewski said he had been inundated with calls asking for something to be done.
Councillor Chad Colbourne read letters from business owners detailing the impact of the shutdowns, and how two hair salons in Bonnyville have already shut their doors for good since the beginning of the pandemic.
“If we take a look at a lot of the retail, you can go shopping downtown and go into any store and things like that, and basically all you need to do is wear a mask,” said Sobolewski on The Morning After on Wednesday.
“Some of them require the hand sanitizing, some don’t even. Go to the larger centers and the stores are basically filled with people and I’ll use the Costco example. Yet a restaurant can’t open,” he said.
While pressure increases on the government, the earliest these businesses can expect to open is Jan. 21. Premier Kenney announced on Jan. 7 restrictions imposed in December would be extended for at least another two weeks.