Cassandra Kirby, Wendy Kipp and Jessica Korbiel of James Street Home Decor
Port Stanley business owners were still rattled today after a weekend enforcement blitz resulted in at least six entrepreneurs being fined for Provincial pandemic protocol violations.
The owners described unexpected visits on Saturday from two Ontario government employees who issued warnings to several businesses and dished out $1,130 fines to others for perceived pandemic protocol violations.
“I think we’ve been wronged,” said Wendy Kipp, of James Street Home Décor. The business was fined $1,130 for not publicly displaying certain pandemic information, and for not keeping adequate records of daily employee screening.
“That’s a big hit for a little company,” said Kipp. “We’re all trying to survive the pandemic and (the Province is) doing this to us.
“Our customers thank us all the time for controlling the door,” she added. James Street is technically allowed 18 customers in the store at one time, but management locks the front door when there are 10. “We have a doorman. We sanitize between customers. We wear our masks.”
James Street proprietor Cassandra Kirby said the ticket was issued around 1 p.m. on Saturday. “The customers were getting very uncomfortable. He gave us the ticket, then said ‘you can probably fight this’.”
Two Forks restauranteur Terrie Collard – whose business was fined $1,130 “because the server (was) not wearing safety glasses” – hopes to rally interested business owners on Tuesday night to consider a united response to the weekend’s events.
“I am truly saddened for this happening,” said Collard. “All of these businesses, including my own, are following the rules and conducting their business safely.
“A warning would be nice,” added Collard, wondering whatever happened to Premier Doug Ford’s commitment to educating businesses about the pandemic protocols. “$1,130 due December 26 is horrible.
“That could make or break a business two weeks before Christmas,” she said. “Haven’t we all been through enough between the (King George VI Lift Bridge closure) and the ever-changing (pandemic) restrictions. We are all doing our very best to maintain a safe business and to continue to pay our bills and remain a part of the community.”
The meeting is scheduled to be held tomorrow at 8 p.m., at The Pierside Pub, 158 William Street.
Collard and Kirby have formally expressed their concerns about the blitz to Jeff Yurek, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), for Elgin-Middlesex-London. However Yurek did not respond directly to a North Shore Beacon request for comment today.
“Jeff is aware of the situation and looking into it further,” said Delany Leitch, a spokesperson for Yurek. “He feels that enforcement blitzes should be focused on big box retailers and not small businesses. Affected business owners are encouraged to reach out to the (MPP’s) office directly.”
Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) did not immediately respond to North Shore Beacon inquiries about the weekend blitz, neither did the Provincial ministries or minister responsible for the Ontario government’s COVID-19 protocols.
“Small businesses in a little village two Saturdays before Christmas are being targeted, yet big box stores with expensive lawyers are left alone,” said one puzzled entrepreneur who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s a disgusting cash grab on small retail and restaurants that already have strict rules.”