New Brunswick

N.B. barbers' rep condemns members who broke new COVID rules

Blaine Harris, registrar for the New Brunswick Registered Barbers' Association, is condemning a handful of barbers who he says defied the province's Level 3 COVID-19 Winter Plan by operating their businesses on Monday.

At least 6 barbershops defied Level 3 Winter Plan rules, says Blaine Harris

Blaine Harris, registrar of the New Brunswick Registered Barbers' Association, says he opposes the new restrictions on barbershops, but he wants members to follow the public health rules. (CBC)

A representative for barbers in New Brunswick is condemning some members for openly flouting the province's newest COVID-19 restrictions by opening their businesses to clients on Monday.

Blaine Harris, registrar for the New Brunswick Registered Barbers' Association, said he personally visited two barbershops in Saint John to force them to shut down.

His actions come after the province enacted its Level 3 COVID-19 Winter Plan, which mandated that barbershops, salons, gyms, spas and entertainment centres close for at least 16 days as of Saturday in response to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in hospitals.

In addition to the two in Saint John, Harris said he was aware of another four shops that were open and operating in Fredericton, and he would have visited them if Monday's snowstorm hadn't led to dangerous driving conditions.

"It's wrong," he said. "We may not agree with the rule, and I personally don't agree with having to shut down. However, the government of New Brunswick is the one mandating this, and if we don't follow the rules of law, then we have a lawless society.

"And any person right now that is opening up their establishments in violation of this would be subject to a $680 fine from the province of New Brunswick, and I think that that has to be done," he said, adding that he also has the power to revoke barbers' licences.

Danny Melanson, owner of Danny's Barber Shop on Fredericton's Main Street, opened his business to clients Monday, and said he'd already seen about 10 by about 11 a.m.

 

"I've had a lot of good support from everybody coming in, and I don't know how many hundreds of messages I got in support of opening," he said.

Asked about concerns for public health, Melanson said he's always operated safely and continues doing so.

"The world has to turn, and I have to pay my bills, and it's not that I'm trying to defy health or anything like that, but I'm being as safe as I can, and we always have been for the last two years.

"I think people are in no danger coming in to get their haircut."

Chad McGarity, owner of Warehouse Barber Shop on Regent Street, said his shop was open on Monday, but with 10-foot distancing between chairs.

 

He said he's already spent thousands of dollars improving safety at his shop and doesn't think it's fair that he be forced to close while large retailers are allowed to continue to operate.

McGarity said he planned to be open for bookings again on Tuesday, even if there could be consequences.

"We've sat down and spoke to the barbers that were going to be coming in, and we foresee that there might be [consequences]. But at the end of the day, its a livelihood," he said.

Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said in an email that peace officers checked 123 businesses over the weekend and found eight violations requiring proprietor education. No tickets were issued.

He said officers did not encounter any instances of a business remaining open despite being required to close.

"The decision on warnings vs proprietor education vs charges is made by peace officers on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific facts."

Berry said a peace officer can issue a fine for a total of $580.50, and when an offence is brought to court, a judge may issue a fine up to an amount not exceeding $24,484.50.

Associations call for reversal from province

While Harris wants barbers to comply with the province's rules, he said he's working on getting the government to change its stance on barbershops.

"We're working with government right now to explain to them that our industry is not a vector [for COVID] and that we shouldn't be required to be closed," Harris said.

Harris said barbers are in a difficult position because they typically don't qualify for the latest one-time payment from the province of $10,000 for business owners who employ between two and 99 full-time equivalent staff.

"We don't have employees. Most of these shops that are in this province are either chair-rental shops or they're commission shops. They're not hourly wage employees getting weekly a paycheque of the same amount of money."

Gaye Cail, executive director of the Cosmetology Association of New Brunswick, has also called on the province to remove salons from the list of businesses that must close under Level 3.

Bruce Macfarlane, spokesperson for the Department of Health, said in an email that the move to Level 3 was made in order to mitigate the "extreme risk currently confronting the provincial health-care system."

Macfarlane did not say whether the province plans to change its stance on barbershops.

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