‘It’s just too soon’: Some businesses refusing to reopen, despite province lifting restrictions

By | April 30, 2020

Even with provincial restrictions lifted, some Winnipeg businesses are refusing to reopen on Monday, saying it would jeopardize their safety and the safety of their clients.

Manitoba announced on Wednesday that non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen on May 4 under strict guidelines. 

The areas affected include non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures, therapeutic and medical services, museums, galleries, libraries, seasonal day camps, retail stores, restaurant patios and hair salons.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health, said the plan to reopen remains safe as long as people continue to follow the strict guidelines. 

Roussin said businesses aren’t mandated to reopen by Monday. 

“It’s important that this is a lifting of restrictions. It’s not a directive. So we’re certainly not directing anyone to open their business to do anything,” he said. 

Joshua Alderson and Michael Duchon, owners of Vantage Vintage Boutique in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, said reopening on Monday is not possible. 

The duo said they were shocked when they heard the decision, as they didn’t plan to reopen until fall. They say opening their shop for customers to try on clothes isn’t feasible right now.

“Because we’d have an item that’s tried on, right? The concern of something transmitting that way,” said Duchon.

“This virus can live on surfaces for a couple of hours … so we can’t simply be washing and sanitizing everything. It’s pretty impossible.” 

Joshua Alderson and Michael Duchon own Vantage Village Boutique. They’re now focusing their sales solely online. (John Einarson/CBC)

Alderson said some of the items they sell can be a century old, so washing can ruin them. 

“Time-wise, money-wise, it’s a risk to our product, as well as our customers,” he said.  

Duchon said they’re also not able to get hand sanitizer for customers entering their store, which is a basic requirement mandated by the province. 

No room in shop or arrangements for childcare 

Jill Sawatzky, owner of Tony Chestnut, a clothing boutique, said allowing customers to try on clothes is an “extra risk” she doesn’t want to take. 

“I’m not ready to put my own safety in that kind of a risk because I am home with my kids and I hope to be able to start seeing my parents and my parents-in-law soon,” she said. 

Sawatzky said the physical makeup of her shop also doesn’t allow for adequate social distancing, since it’s connected to two other businesses, one of which is a hair salon. 

“We’re literally separated by nothing more than an open air sort of room divider,” she said. 

Sawatzky said if the hair salon has clients, there wouldn’t be room for her to bring her own customers into the shop, because the maximum number of people will be reached. 

She also didn’t expect the province to make the announcement until late May and was hoping to have time to arrange for child care. 

“It’s just been my partner and I and my kids at home and that’s not going to change on Monday either obviously,” she said. 

Lack of masks and gloves 

Lisa Anderson, a hairdresser who works part-time at home and at CJ Hair and Spa in Lorette, said she’s refusing to return to work on Monday because she doesn’t have masks and gloves. 

“None of us have enough equipment to go around right now, it’s kind of insane,” she said.

Anderson ordered her gloves and masks online, but was told they won’t arrive until mid-May. 

Lisa Anderson, a hair stylist in Winnipeg, says the province is reopening too soon. She doesn’t have masks and gloves to return to work. (John Einarson/CBC)

“We want to interact with people, but we want to do it safely. If we don’t have the masks and we can’t have the gloves, I’m not putting myself at risk, my family, or you. We want to go back to work, [but] it’s just too soon,” she said. 

She said her employer is also not ready to reopen the salon on Monday either and when it does open, staff have a series of logistics to untangle, including who gets to work, how they will remain distant and how they will clean in between clients.

“Booking clients will be tricky. Are we only doing haircuts, no blow dry? What are we doing for colours? It’s going to be a lot to figure out,” she said. 

Restoring quality of life, says premier 

Premier Brian Pallister said the decision was made based on science and medical advice. 

“We don’t want to see people hurt or suffer as a consequence of our decisions. No one does. But people are hurt and suffering now because they can’t get the services they need,” Pallister said in Brandon Thursday. 

A small business in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. Retail business will be allowed to reopen next week provided they limit occupancy to allow customers to practise physical distancing. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Pallister said as many as 250,000 Manitobans in the private sector are losing their jobs or being forced to work reduced hours because of the pandemic. 

“We want to restore the quality of life that Manitobans deserve to enjoy,” he said. 

“So these steps are designed not to put the economy ahead of health, but to put health first but also to recognize that without a strong economy we don’t have a great quality of life either.” 

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