Mixed messages, looming deadlines: Small business faces troubling return to ‘normal’

Mixed messages, looming deadlines: Small business faces troubling return to ‘normal’

TORONTO — The co-owners of Coco Beauty Bar were ready to return to business once the Ontario government gave beauty salons a green light, but after seeing the strict COVID-19 restrictions required, they wonder if it’s even worth the effort.

No facials, no microblading, face waxing or threading. And the biggest financial hit — no lash extensions.

“Lash extensions are our moneymaker, and if we can’t do that we’re thinking, ‘What’s the sense of opening up?’” said Vesna Rosales, manager of the small business in Toronto’s Bloor West Village.

“We’re going to be losing like crazy. We won’t be able to pay full rent for July. There’s no way.”

Rosales and husband and business partner Tim Heffernan consulted the Toronto Public Health website, where he learned they can offer manicures and pedicures, as well as bikini and leg waxes. But he said that will only bring in about 30 to 40 per cent of the usual revenues, at best.

So the couple, who are both in their 60s, broke the bad news to their staff in an email which read, in part: “It doesn’t look good.” Now, they’re now asking themselves some big questions about the future of a business they had already considered selling earlier this year, as they planned for retirement.

Much of their frustration can be traced back to federal and provincial governments who’ve bogged down press conferences with confusing messages, a flurry of staggered deadlines for financial and rent support, and what many small businesses and commercial landlords have described as a total lack of clarity around COVID-19 financial support systems and how they apply.

Among the biggest complaints is the lack of co-ordination between the federal and provincial governments over the rollout of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (CECRA) in May, which was meant to help small businesses keep from going under. Tenancy laws fall under provincial jurisdiction, but it took weeks before there was official response to widespread complaints that some landlords refused to adopt the measures, choosing instead to kick out their commercial tenants. Some provinces introduced bans or restrictions on commercial evictions.

Ontario added itself to that group earlier this week with its temporary ban on evictions, which lasts until the end of August. But that’s two months after the current CECRA support program expires, creating more questions over whether the federal government intends to extend its support for entrepreneurs who are deeply hurting.

A new study released by Royal Bank of Canada found that small businesses accounted for 60 per cent of job losses in the first two months of the pandemic, twice as many as in the 2008-2009 recession.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business president Dan Kelly has called for broader financial support measures that last longer. He believes without a clear roadway to recovery, most business owners can only focus on short term uncertainties.

“Everybody was of the view that if… (small businesses) were closed for a few months, government provided support, we reopened and the things would back to normal, no harm no foul. But unfortunately that’s not the world we’re living in,” he said.

“The CECRA program is ending before many of them are even back, and so the need for support to cover rent for shuttered businesses remains of critical importance to many, because they don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

More than 5,500 small business tenants were approved for CECRA as of June 8, according to data provided by the House of Commons finance committee on Thursday. Kelly suggests that figure is a “drop in the bucket” compared to the 400,000 to 500,000 businesses the CFIB estimates qualify for the program.

For the owners of Coco Beauty Bar, they’re still questioning their fate.

Other small business owners are in similar situations due to a variety of restricted services, and many will have to consider whether it’s worth staying in business with reduced operations.

Tattoo parlours can’t decorate faces or necks, but they can pierce ears. Barbers can cut clients’ hair, but they can’t shave beards. And estheticians can’t offer hand or feet massages.

Rosales hopes for the sake of her business, provincial and municipal leaders will see the importance of returning to regular routines with COVID-19 precautions in place. She said offering a limited menu of mani-pedis won’t be sustainable.

“We’ll be sitting there waiting for people to come while we have to pay for all the bills — salary, rent, utilities and whatever else,” said Rosales.

“We’ll be taking it out of our own pocket.”

Follow @dfriend on Twitter.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo submitted/ Rita-anne Fuss
Distancing Diamond Project in Millet for mental health

Distancing Diamonds allow for social distancing community gathering.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Manny’s Motel demolition underway. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
Manny’s Motel demolition underway

The property has been vacant since the fire that destroyed most of the structure Jan.14, 2020.

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

(Black Press file photo)
Maskwacis RCMP welcomes new detachment commander

The Maskwacis RCMP detachment has a new detachment commander, Inspector Leanne MacMillan.… Continue reading

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

Most Read