Phil McLellan feels his livelihood has been taken away from him.
The Winnipeg tattoo artist hasn’t worked since March 21 and is disappointed tattoo parlours aren’t allowed to reopen, while hair salons, massage therapists and retail stores can now welcome customers again.
“Maybe getting a tattoo isn’t essential but it’s essential that I feed my family,” he said.
This week, the province began relaxing some rules around non-essential businesses, which were forced to close at the start of April under a public health order to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Hair salons, restaurant patios, massage therapy offices and retail stores were among those allowed to open — under certain conditions — on Monday.
McLellan doesn’t think it’s fair that tattoo parlours like his Main Street business — The Parlour Tattoos — have to stay closed for now.
They won’t be allowed to reopen until a future phase of the province’s multi-stage reopening plan. That will be weeks, if not months, away, with the second phase set to begin no earlier than June 1 and subsequent phases spread out in three- to four-week periods.
McLellan has started a petition calling on the province to let tattoo shops reopen earlier.
“Being able to get a haircut is a cosmetic thing. It’s not a health and safety issue, it’s purely for beautification — and so are tattoos.”
Some of his clients are anxious to get work done, he says.
“They may have an appointment booked three months out for a larger tattoo, and message us and say, ‘Can you get me in tomorrow for a small piece with one of your walk-in guys? Because I’ve had a rough week.'”
WATCH | Owners of tattoo parlour, nail salon say they want to reopen:
McLellan has masks, face shields, aprons and other supplies to protect him and his staff. His team also has training in preventing cross-contamination.
“We’re fielding phone calls now from salons and other businesses that are asking us how they implement these practices in order for them to reopen.”
Manitoba’s top doctor defended the province’s reopening plan in his daily COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday. Officials have a fine line to walk and are trying to find a fair balance when choosing who can reopen, said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer.
“We have to have a phased approach to this. It’s too risky to open up everything at the same time,” Roussin said, shortly after announcing the province’s seventh COVID-19-related death.
That message is little comfort to Thao Dunphy, who just a few months ago opened up her dream nail salon in Westwood.
She has face shields and masks at her business, and has Plexiglas installed on nail tables — but she too is unable to reopen.
“I think it’s a little bit unfair” to allow hair salons to open but require estheticians and cosmetologists to keep their businesses closed, Dunphy said Tuesday.
“It’s just [as] safe. It’s the same,” the new business owner said.
She’s had to lay off six employees because of the closure.
“It’s [a] very emotional time for us.”
Both Dunphy and McLellan said federal aid has done little to help them, but both had praise for the provincial government’s business loan program.
That program provides small and medium businesses impacted by COVID-19 with one-time, $6,000 interest-free loans — which are forgivable if the business hasn’t received more than $6,000 in federal support by the end of the year.
“It’s helped us pay some of the bills,” Dunphy said.
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