Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Winnipeg nail salons, private club shut down after operating in spite of public health orders

Manitoba health inspectors have shut down two Winnipeg nail salons and a private members club for staying open after the province ordered all non-essential businesses closed.

California Nails, Ruby Nail Bar were closed this week after complaints they were still serving customers

Manitoba public health inspectors shutdown Ruby Nail Bar and California Nails last week, saying the businesses continued to operate in spite of public health orders prohibiting them from doing so. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Manitoba public health inspectors have shut down two Winnipeg nail salons and a private members club for remaining open after the province ordered all non-essential businesses to close.

Bars, massage therapists, and esthetics salons were among the non-essential businesses required to close on April 1 under a public health order. They are to remain closed until May 1, unless the province says otherwise.

According to a list posted on the government's website, California Nails, Ruby Nail Bar and JT's Club were all still operating this week, but have since been shut down by the province. 

"There's some places that aren't getting the message, so we're having to investigate them and unfortunately do some enforcement once in a while," said Mike LeBlanc, Manitoba's chief public health inspector.

For the past six weeks, all of Manitoba's 45 public health inspectors have been focused entirely on COVID-19 concerns, LeBlanc said.

The province gets hundreds of calls a day ranging from concerns that grocery stores don't have hand sanitizer available for customers to use, to complaints about businesses staying open. 

"When it comes to a place that is blatantly violating the orders, we are ticketing them and closing them down," said LeBlanc.

'Not putting up with anything': inspector

The nail salons were each fined $486, while JT's Club received a $2,542 ticket. Two body modification shops in Brandon were also charged earlier this month for breaching the public health orders. 

"I really don't know why" some businesses are breaking the rules, said LeBlanc.

"It's disappointing. We tried to say to them that, you know, this is to protect our most vulnerable population. It's in the best interests of the public, in your health, your family's health, for everyone to comply."

A notice taped on the entrance to California Nails says the business is closed. It was among those fined this month for opening. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

LeBlanc says the vast majority of Manitoba businesses have been complying with the public health directives, and many others fall in line after a warning and a little education.

When reached for comment, the owner of Ruby Nail Bar said a staff member had come in this week to check the mail.

"He turned on the light but did not open [for] business," Ruby Nguyen said in an email to CBC. "There is no way that my business was opening."

When asked about the fine, she said she has been out of the province for over a month and hadn't yet received it. 

JT's Club, a private members club on Keewatin Street, was fined by public health officials. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

LeBlanc said that employees are allowed to go into establishments to pick up mail, clean or do routine maintenance. 

"That's not what we found in these things so far. There are nail services or there is business being conducted," he said. 

"We're not putting up with anything. We're taking strong enforcement on this. They know they're breaking the law, unfortunately. There's no doubt about it. We find them operating and we're issuing a ticket."

The owner of JT's Club declined to comment. California Nails did not return a request for comment.

Customers desperate for services

A number of ads have recently appeared on Kijiji, posted by people desperate for a haircut, massage or a nail appointment as businesses that would normally provide those services are required to close.

A few businesses are also still advertising their services.

"Desperate times make desperate measures," said Shelly Duffney, owner of Lindeza Body Sugaring. 

Duffney isn't taking customers but recently reposted an old ad on Kijiji.

"I just don't want to disappear. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure I remember how to post the new ad. It just seems so much easier to say 'repost,'" she laughed.

Ads posted on Kijiji on April 23 by people looking for personal services such as a haircut or massage. (Kijiji)

In the past month and a half, Duffney has received quite a few emails from interested consumers.

"I just explained that I'm closed right now, but if they keep me in mind when things open up that I'd offer a 10 per cent discount if they just say that they tried to contact me during the closure and I wasn't open."

Duffney opened her south Winnipeg body sugaring shop in 2017 after the company she worked for went under.

Her new business was slowly growing and just starting to break even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to close. As a busineess owner, she didn't make a salary and doesn't qualify for the federal government's emergency response benefit.

Still, she isn't angry at her competitors who have chosen to flout the public health orders and stay open.

"I can't get stressed over someone else's choices," said Duffney.

"Not everybody can go a month or two without an income, you know? People have to eat, too. And I'm sure I'm not the only one that fell through the cracks. If I fell through the cracks, I'm sure there's people in the same boat as me," she said

"It's a personal choice. If you want to take that risk, you take that risk. I just, I'm not in a position where I'd want to do that."

Duffney considers herself lucky to have a bit of money to fall back on for the short term, and a loving partner who has been helping to support her.

More businesses will be fined

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said at Friday's press conference he expects more fines to be levied against businesses.

"The public health inspectors are certainly taking this seriously at businesses, and so that will continue to occur if necessary. There have been fines levied and there is certainly likely to be more," he said.

"Going forward, as we start loosening restrictions, having people adhere to those properly is going to be very vital in our success."

'I wouldn't want to have it on my conscience that I made a family member sick by going to a non-essential business right now,' says Mike LeBlanc. (CBC)

LeBlanc says public health inspectors are acting on complaints from the public, but also monitoring social media, want ads and websites for evidence of noncompliance.

He warns that the public needs to remember the consequences if they decide to get their nails done or have a drink at a bar while the health orders are in effect.

"You don't really need to have your hair done or your nails done that badly. It's not worth the risk," he said.

"I wouldn't want to have it on my conscience that I made a family member sick by going to a non-essential business right now. It's just not worth it."

'We are ticketing them and closing them down'

CBC News Manitoba

1 year ago
Manitoba public health inspectors have shut down two Winnipeg nail salons and a private members club for remaining open after the province ordered all non-essential businesses to close. 1:05

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Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email:


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