Winnipeg tattoo business reopens in violation of public health orders, stressing financial need

A Winnipeg business says they are reopening despite public health orders.

The owner of The Parlor Tattoos on Main Street said he knows public health orders were extended for two more weeks in Manitoba, but he couldn’t afford to not reopen.

“We’re still in the arrears from the three months we were closed,” Phil McLellan said. “The assistance we got now doesn’t cover our rent and it didn’t cover any of our other expenses including our home living expenses. So all of the money we had put away for just this type of emergency was spent in March, April, May of last year.”

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McLellan opened his shop on Jan. 9. Two public health inspectors showed up to speak with him.

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“Well I only had one client because I needed to gauge what the government response was going to be, and I’m also a responsible business owner,” McLellan said. “I’m not anti-mask, I’m not a COVID denier, I’m a business owner trying to earn a living.

“They asked if I was operational I told them that in fact I was, they said I was in violation of public health orders of section 99, they told me that they would leave and I would be spoken to at a later date.”

McLellan said he was eligible for some provincial aid, but the bills he still has to pay are well above the subsidies.

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“The truth is it’s not enough, it’s not enough,” McLellan said.

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“My lease here is $3,200 a month. Two bridge grants, we’ve been closed six months, so that’s three months rent, that doesn’t even cover the rent here.

“I’m still receiving a hydro bill from a crown corporation. Why am I being billed for hydro when they know I can’t pay it?”

McLellan also wondering why his shop can’t open with contact tracing and strict cleaning protocols in place even before COVID-19 health orders mandated them.

“You have thousands of people travelling through big box stores, Walmart, Canadian Tire and there is no contact tracing, they don’t know who was in there or when,” McLellan said.

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“There is no oversight of ‘Are you sick?’ There is nobody even at greeting them at the door to ask these questions.

“We had all of these things in place in the service industry prior to COVID-19 all of our clients fill out a release form, this is super easy to do, they are crushing the economy.”

McLellan wanted to see public health orders allow personal services to reopen Friday for shops that could open safely, he said.

“We submitted that same proposal in March of 2020, we still haven’t even got an email back.”

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Rich Handford, a board member of the Manitoba Body Art Association, says the association has contacted the province in an effort to open dialogue with the provincial government and public health but has not received a response.

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“We have always taken the health and safety of ourselves, our clients and our community seriously. Getting a tattoo has had similar protocols to dental and medical procedures for almost 20 years. Most of these protocols have been in place long before the pandemic,” he said.

Local shops are prepared to go further to enhance those protocols, he said.

The Winnipeg city councillor for the area where McLellan’s tattoo shop resides empathizes with his situation but remains adamant that the rules are in place for a reason.

“While it is essential for them to make a living, non-essential businesses still have to remain closed,” Mynasrski councillor Ross Eadie said.

“We can’t make exceptions, the numbers are slowly starting to go down, but COVID is here, our family and relatives are dying and it’s not a good situation.”

-with files from Elisha Dacey

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