'We can't afford this robbery': St. John's store owner believes weapon was bear spray

Police say closing the store after an armed robbery Friday night would have given investigators a better opportunity to process the scene.

Police say decision by store staff not to close means no forensic evidence gathered

The owner of Shalimar Convenience says he feels he has taken all the safety precautions he can. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The owner of a convenience store that was robbed Friday night in St. John's says he doesn't know what else to do to protect his staff and his business.

Imran Dar, who also works as a cashier at Shalimar Convenience on Forest Road, said the latest incident took less than a couple of minutes.

'My God, small businesses have other challenges as well .... we can't afford this.' - Imran Dar, owner of Shalimar Convenience

He said an employee told him a masked man came in Friday night  — "only his eyes are visible" — put his bag on the counter and demanded cash.

The employee was sprayed with "an animal repellant," the RNC confirmed Monday, but couldn't say whether it was the bear spray that Dar and the employee believe it was.

"He had to be taken to hospital," said Dar, who told CBC the employee was treated for two hours before Dar's son dropped him home.

'What else can we do?'

Dar said this isn't the first time his business has been the target of an armed robbery.

"The first time was a couple of years ago in 2014. My daughter was working in the daytime, a man came with a big knife and she was held up ... Same thing happened, cash was gone," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Dar said that robbery was in the afternoon. 

The RNC says the store's owner opted to keep the business open after the robbery, even though police requested keeping customers out in order to process the scene. (CBC)

The store owner said he believes he is taking every precaution he can. 

"My security system is there, panic button is there, buzzer alarms are there ... what else can we do? Cameras are there," Dar said.

It's taking a big toll, he said.

"My God, small businesses have other challenges as well ... we can't afford this robbery and shoplifting like this. No, not in a small business," Dar said.

RNC: owner wouldn't close store

Meanwhile, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said while it is continuing to investigate, no forensic evidence was able to be retrieved from the store Friday night.

That's because the owner wouldn't close the store after the robbery, despite a request from police to keep customers out in order to preserve the scene, according to police.

Police also clarified that officers were on scene 9 p.m. Friday night — four minutes after getting a call about the robbery. They were alerted to the incident by a phone call from a customer at the store, and not by the panic button pushed by the cashier.