Some Alberta business owners disappointed with extension of COVID-19 restrictions

On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that current provincial restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 will remain for at least another two weeks.

Many businesses like hair salons and tattoo parlours have been closed since Mid-December

One of many examples of businesses in Calgary keeping a positive attitude as they stay shut during the COVID-19 crisis. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

With the province's COVID-19 restrictions being extended until Jan. 21, some Alberta business owners face another difficult two weeks ahead of closed doors.

On Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that current provincial restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 will remain for at least another two weeks.

That means many businesses will remain closed, including personal services like hair and nail salons or tattoo shops, indoor recreation facilities like gyms, arenas, pools and community halls, and entertainment businesses like movie theatres, amusement parks and museums.

Phil Baril, owner and manager of Voodoo Hair Studio in St. Albert, said he wasn't surprised to hear Kenney's announcement, because he didn't think the initial four-week shutdown announced in December would be enough for numbers to drop around Alberta.

Baril said his salon already introduced strict health procedures to protect against COVID-19 spread. But he also understands why his business had to close while shopping malls and other stores stayed open.

"Our clients are in the salon for sometimes three, four, five hours at a time. And over the course of that time, it's definitely more possible for there to be some kind of a transmission than some quick retail transaction," Baril said.

Another difficulty, Baril says, is the short notice they've received about whether they can open their doors or not. He said he would have liked to know earlier about whether he'd be able to reopen his business next week.

One positive, Baril says, is how his industry has shared best practices in the last year. He said he expects improved sanitation and cleanliness procedures will be used even after the pandemic ends.

But hair salons still face significant monetary losses in the last year. Baril said his business loses around $2,000 per week for each week they're closed.

At least one Alberta business doesn't want to follow the province's COVID-19 restrictions any longer.

Will Woods, owner of Peppermint Hippo Tattoo in Lethbridge, said he'll open his shop on Monday and has already booked several appointments, even though tattoo parlours are not currently allowed to open in Alberta. 

With other businesses still open like flower shops and clothing stores, Woods said he doesn't think his industry is getting a fair shake when few recorded COVID-19 cases have been tracked back to tattoo parlours.

He said his shop stopped accepting walk-ins, created more space between tattoo artists and used more PPE, all to counter COVID-19 spread.

After announcing his shop would reopen on Monday, Woods said the response has been mostly positive. But he does expect to receive some kind of pushback or punishment from the province. 

"I'd be stupid to think that there's not going to be something that's going to happen from this," Woods said. "But how much longer am I supposed to sit down and take it?"

The problem some businesses face is they don't have a larger association advocating on their behalf, said Bailey Brown, owner of Below Hair Studio in Edmonton.

"Hair stylists in Alberta, we don't have an association, we don't have someone who can go to battle for us," Brown said on CBC's Radio Active on Friday.

Brown added that her salon's business has been up and down in the past year. Even when they were open last summer, she said they had fewer clients because people often book hair appointments before events or trips, which weren't happening as often. But they also saw a rapid rush in business when they reopened after the first shutdown last spring.

She said she doesn't have the type of business where she can work from home and her salary is on hold while her salon is closed, so she's followed health regulations in hopes she can get back to work as soon as possible.

"We're getting close to the year mark that we've been dealing with COVID," Brown said. "I think everyone's just starting to get a little bit lax too on the rules, so I'm worried this is going to go on longer than it has to."