Pickering barber says industry is neglected during COVID-19


The provincial government continues to neglect the personal services industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, says a Pickering barbershop owner.

Custom Cutz Barbershop owner Shawn Lewis is joined by others, from tattoo artists to spa and hair salon owners, who are among those asking for more support, and questioning why their businesses have had to close while many others have been allowed to remain open.

“The past year has been super stressful, especially on the financial side,” Lewis says.

Lewis's Kingston Road shop has been in business for 13 years and he opened a second location in Whitby in the summer.

“It’s just sitting there empty with all of the bills coming in regularly,” he says.

Emily Hogeveen, a spokesperson for Ontario Minister of Finance and Pickering-Uxbridge MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy, writes in an e-mail, personal services business owners that were required to close due to lockdowns were eligible for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant.

“More than 100,000 Ontario small businesses have received a grant between $10,000 and $20,000, and as part of the minister’s budget announcement last month we are doubling the grant, issuing a second payment to all eligible recipients,” she says.

Lewis says while he has applied for relief for his Pickering location, he hasn’t seen any money materialize since he applied earlier this year, which includes CERB for himself.

Since he didn't open his Whitby location prior to March 2020, that shop is unable to receive support.

Besides, he feels the retroactive relief he applied for is not ideal.

“I first think they should take off the retro and start paying businesses immediately,” he says.

Beauty United Canada has launched a petition stating the beauty and personal services industry needs to open immediately, and it had received more than 35,000 signatures at the time of publication.

“Most of our members did not get rent support,” the petition says, adding 20 per of the sector has already closed permanently and more will not survive this lockdown.

The petition notes the industry helps clients feel good.

"At a time when Ontarians are under considerable stress, looking good and feeling good about ones’ self is important for mental health," it says.

Hogeveen says the health and well-being of Ontarians remains the government's top priority, and the government is being guided by world-class public health care experts, who have advised the province when and if restrictions need to be implemented.

“Given the current rate of COVID-19 cases around the province, we have implemented measures designed to reduce mobility and limit opportunities for individuals to have close contact with others in order to help stop the spread of this virus," she says.

But Lewis says the government is looking at the wrong industry.

“We have masks on, we have gloves on, we have PPE on ,” he says, adding chairs are sanitized after every cut, and they “sanitize all day long.”

The petition states "Hairdressers are the only licensed journey person under the Ontario College of Trade that is trained in (Infection Prevention and Control) that remains shut down."

Lewis adds he invested a “ridiculous” amount of money into PPE before having to lockdown.

“Don’t leave us in the dark and make us acquire all these debts," he says.