Closed within 5 months: Hair salon owner blames borough

While trying to obtain a certificate of occupation, a business owner in Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie says he received misleading information from borough employees.

JJ Levine's application for a certificate of occupation was rejected 3 times

JJ Levine's application for a certificate of occupation was rejected on three occasions. (CBC)

A business owner in Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie has had to shut down his shop due to what he says was conflicting information he received from borough staff.

JJ Levine was planning to open a LGBTQ-friendly hair salon — "Haircuts for Anyone" — in March after more than a decade of receiving clients at different locations.

He found a space located in the same building where he had been living.

"It felt like the timing was right," Levine said. "And at that moment, there was a 'For Rent' sign on this space which was in the same building with the same landlord who I already had a good relationship with."

The building is zoned as a residential property, but the 33-year-old Levine says borough employees went over municipal bylaws with him in February to reassure him he would not have any issue getting a certificate of occupation.

The certificate is required when a space is being used for any purpose other than housing.

"They told me that since it was on the ground floor and since my business was in a category that was accepted for a business in a non-commercial space, that it would be totally fine," he said.

Two weeks ago, a borough inspector ordered JJ Levine to close his shop or risk being fined. (CBC)

One rejection after another

Despite those reassurances, Levine's application was denied. He says he met with an employee in the borough's urban planning division who told him the application was denied because the store was not on the corner of a street.

The building is less than 10 metres from the corner of Bellechasse and Saint-Hubert streets.

"I looked at the map with the agent and said, 'Here's the building, here's the corner. It is clearly on the corner, what do you mean?' and they said, 'You know, it's a matter of interpretation and we're sorry for the inconvenience but you're right. Your permit application has been accepted.'"

But when the application was actually processed, it was denied.

JJ Levine is trying to figure out where he will cut his clients' hair. (CBC)

Levine applied again, and was rejected for a second time because the application listed his business under the personal services category.

"A hair salon is not included in the personal services category, it is categorized as personal care," the email stated. "As a result, you cannot open your business in that building."

Desperate to keep his business open, Levine re-applied for a certificate under the pretense of opening a photography studio. That application was also rejected because the borough determined Levine's shop was not located inside what it referred to as a corner establishment.

In an email, a borough employee wrote: "In order for it to be considered a corner establishment, there must be windows facing at least two streets. That is unfortunately not the case in your situation."

Closing up shop

Despite not receiving a certificate of occupation, Levine opened for business in March.

But two weeks ago, he received a letter from a borough inspector, stating he had to close his shop or risk being fined.

"I've been freaking out every day looking for different spaces, different options, trying to figure out whether it makes sense to cut hair in my house or to rent a chair somewhere else," Levine said.

"This is really how I earn my living. My partner works two days a week at a bar. He also cuts hair with me here so if neither of us can cut hair, that's going to be a big problem for our family."

CBC contacted the borough of Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie. At the time, no one was available to comment but a borough spokeswoman said a response would be issued later today.