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Shawn Lewis, aka Bucky the Barber, has been locked down as much as he’s been permitted to open over the last year.

The latest provincial lockdown has shut his two Custom Cutz shops in Pickering and Whitby since March.

“We’re trying our best (to keep alive),” he told me this week, noting his government benefits have been pending since January and rent subsidies have been sporadic.

He said he has bills like crazy.

“It’s been super difficult for our business … to lock us down 100% and expect us to pay any bills is crazy,” said Lewis, who was playfully nicknamed “Bucky” after Buck O’Hare the superhero rabbit because of the space between his two front teeth.

He said the constant lockdowns have cut his sales by 80%.

Even when he’s been open, he said people are reluctant to come back because they’re “nervous.”

Lewis said he’s thankful he had savings to access. Trouble is, it was money he’d saved up for a house for his wife and four kids.


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“We don’t have the money for the house anymore,” he said.

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He employs 11 people in both salons and he’s worried some of them are finding a different career that won’t lock them down ever again.

Lewis feels all of his colleagues in the service industries — salons, tattoo parlors, spas and nail salons –have been targeted “unfairly” even though there’s little proof their industry is spreading the virus.

“Because we complied, we’re losing everything we had,” he said, noting before COVID he was just starting to reap the benefits of his shops after 13 years.

Lewis has no idea what’s going to happen when they are finally allowed to reopen, but he anticipates it will take a while to rebuild.

He really hopes the industry bounces back because so many people have invested years of their lives.

Lewis said he would be “devastated” if he lost his shops.

Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said as of Thursday, GTA barbershops and hair salons have been locked down 257 days since the pandemic began.

They have been now closed for 165 consecutive days and counting, he said.

He said if he was forced to make a bet on it, Ontario businesses won’t be permitted to reopen on May 20.

“It seems like opening businesses is concern number 5,000 for the Ford government,” Kelly said. “The lockdowns in the GTA are the longest in North America … there’s no way COVID in the GTA is the worst in North America.”


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He added that the lockdowns haven’t been working — a point with which I agree. If they had worked, there would be no COVID left in Ontario, he said.

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Kelly said every hour that the lockdown continues more CFIB members make the call to pack it in.

He said there’s a “practical limit” to how many business expenses can be put on one’s personal credit card or how much one is willing to sacrifice one’s house because it was used as “collateral” for a business loan.

“They don’t have the staying power,” Kelly said. “They’ve already been holding things together with tape and glue.”

He said the province has been MIA on rolling out rapid testing for Bucky’s hair salon and other service industries — which would allow them to test their staff three times a week while remaining open with all the other safety precautions in place.

The majority of business owners they’ve surveyed say there needs to be a “heartbeat of activity” to keep them alive — meaning easing the restrictions to a certain extent.

Kelly said many of the public health measures are there to send a message to the public that COVID must be taken seriously — not because the business is “inherently risky.”

The CFIB predicts 75,000 or 1 in 5 small businesses will be forced to shut down in Ontario before this is all over, he said.


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