Sherry Dawson first opened Shear Magic Styling Salon in Hanmer nearly 23 years ago.
But in light of COVID-19, and the lockdown restrictions that came with it, Dawson says her business and livelihood are at stake.
“To keep going and continue to pay my bills with no government help, I need to open,” Dawson told Sudbury.com. “I need to fight for my business.”
Dawson said she has lost five months of income in the past year and has yet to receive government relief from the first two lockdowns.
“It’s devastating. Through the first lockdown, also due to the fact that we didn't qualify for CERB, I had to sell equipment; I had to pull RRSPs. I never should have had to do that.”
When the news came that Greater Sudbury would be entering its third lockdown on March 12, Dawson decided to keep her salon open, regardless of the restrictions put in place.
“I looked at my empty salon and I was angry thinking ‘we’re illegal.' I also sat at my desk and I cried and I thought, 'How much longer can we do this?,'” Dawson said.
“I sent out letters to our MPPs. I signed petitions, but we were getting nowhere and we’re not getting heard. So it came to a point where I thought ‘the only way they are going to hear us, is if we stand up’.”
In February, the Ontario government made an exception to the former lockdown restrictions, by allowing some small businesses to stay open with limited capacity.
However, the current changes only apply to retail stores. Aside from massage therapy, all other personal care services such as hair salons are not permitted to operate during a lockdown.
“I feel that it’s unfair. One of the reasons being is because we go above and beyond with sanitization.”
In addition to being screened for COVID-19 when they arrive, Dawson said everyone in her salon is required to sanitize their hands and wear a face mask at all times. She allows only one client inside her shop at a time and all high-touch surfaces are sanitized between each appointment.
Dawson said these safety measures far exceed the protocols set by other stores that are allowed to stay open during the lockdown.
“I don’t think that any other business, other than personal care, is checked into by the health unit as much as we are. The fact that we’re passing, should enable us to remain open.
“It is in our Charter of Rights that we have the right to work anywhere in the province of Ontario. That’s what I’m doing here and, like I said, we are fully capable of doing it properly.”
By refusing to close her salon during the lockdown, Dawson could face fines of $750 plus a victim fine surcharge and court costs totalling around $880.
While she has not been contacted by police or Sudbury bylaw officers as of yet, Dawson said she is prepared for the repercussions and will dispute any fines that may be issued.
Until then, Dawson intends to keep her shop open and will continue to serve her clients as safely as possible.
“A lot of your clientele become your family and friends. Some of them have been coming for years … they confide in you. For a lot of them this is where their mental health is lifted back up again and that’s important.”
Shear Magic is located at 4471 Notre Dame Ave. in Hanmer.
As of March 19, the City of Greater Sudbury said it has received 848 complaints related to gatherings and 861 complaints related to local businesses operating contrary to the guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic.
Individuals who fail to comply with the orders related to gatherings may face fines between $10,000 and $100,000 for hosting or organizing an event or gathering and $750 for attending such an event or gathering.
To date, there have been no tickets issued related to gatherings.
Bylaw officers have issued 10 tickets for various offences related to businesses opening contrary to the guidelines or individuals not following face covering/mask requirements. This number does not reflect any fines issued by Greater Sudbury Police.