Ontario’s personal care sector demands fair treatment from provincial government

Small businesses across the board are struggling during COVID-19, some more than others, and that includes those in the personal care industry.

A barber in Durham is speaking out about how devastating the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have been and wants the sector to be treated fairly when the economy is able to reopen.

“We’re just trying to get open,” said Shawn Lewis, Custom Cutz BarberShop owner.

Cutting hair has been a passion for Lewis since he first picked up a trimmer at nine years old. But for the past several weeks, he hasn’t been able to do that.

Instead, he’s making sure his station is ready for when customers can come back.

“We feel like we’re essential and the public wants us. The public needs a barbershop to be open, they need salons to be open, they want to feel good,” said Lewis.

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Known as Bucky The Barber, Lewis has owned Custom Cutz in Pickering for 13 years. He says it took him forever to get the business going, and with only being able to be open for half the pandemic, he’s burned through his savings and is about $70,000 in the hole.

“Just begging the government to let us open, begging the government to try to figure out what solutions we can get to actually be open. What does it take to be open? We’ve upgraded all of our sanitation or safety and infectious diseases just so we could be on the same level as the dentists,” said Lewis.

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Tye Tremblay is in the same boat. He’s been tattooing for 10 years but his shop in Toronto has been closed since November and about 300 days since the pandemic began.

“I think people are just worn out now. People are afraid they’re going to be the next business to close,” said Tremblay, Odalisque Studios Owner and Tattoo Artist.

Tremblay has joined Beauty United, a grassroots group of thousands of people in the personal care sector trying to work with the province on being treated fairly.
A reopening plan and proposal for relief have been sent to the government.

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“We need to be actively coming up with a plan to get businesses to reopen as safely as possible. I think that’s our hope — that the government hears our voice, they see the leadership roles we’re taking in trying to keep our places as safe as possible,” said Tremblay.

Global News contacted the province but did not receive comment by deadline.

Lewis, meanwhile, hopes he can reopen when everyone else does, but the 40-year-old knows it’s going to be a rebuilding process.

“It’s taken us decades to get to where we are and to lose it all in a year, it’s just horrible,” said Lewis.

Pandemic taking mental health toll on frontline medical workers – May 5, 2021

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