Local business owner Lauren Wilson was recently forced to close after Kingston bylaw enforcement stepped in and demanded her employee to close in the middle of the day.
“She was very intimidated and was shaking, and he ended up leaving, it was bullying out,” said Wilson.
Wilson owns ‘Lauren Wilson Professional Hairstyling’, a hair salon in a strip mall in the west end of Kingston off of Gardiners Road. She was one of at least three businesses that were affected by a bylaw enforcement crackdown over the past two months — stemming from a complaint. ‘Don’t tell Momma Tattoos’ and ‘Solace Spa’ were also closed. The reality is still sinking in for Wilson, but she is packing up her business and moving on.
“Very sad. I hate being here, because it’s just the feeling of, it’s very sad,” Wilson says. Now she is trying to figure out what her next step is, because the swift measures by bylaw enforcement have left her and other business owners in limbo.
“I have a friend I’m paying to rent a chair off of right now in the meantime, and I’m driving around the city looking for lease signs, trying to start over.”
Wilson’s business, as well as the other two forced to closed, was shut down due to a zoning issue.
“Certainly when it’s brought to our attention, it’s our due diligence requirement to actually address. It’s a legal business and a safe business,” says Paige Agnew, the director of planning, building and licensing for the city of Kingston. Officials wouldn’t comment on what the complaint was, but say it was following an investigation where they discovered several outstanding issues, including expired licenses.
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“We want to make sure that businesses are opening and operating in spaces that meet all of the code requirements from a public health and safety perspective.”
But store owners say they didn’t have any time to figure out alternative measures, which meant losing out on customers, time and even rent for their space. Agnew with the city says they are trying to do everything they can to help those affected.
“My staff have offered help and resources to work with different businesses in the process and to try and expedite that as quickly as possible.”
But Wilson claims it has been a challenge trying to get anywhere with the application, with them being told it could be up to six months if they want to apply for a re-zoning application.
“It just feels like it’s closed door after closed door.”
It’s currently unclear how the commercial licenses for the now closed businesses could have been issued in the first place without flagging the zoning issue to the city. Agnew says she can’t speak to specific cases, nor whether the city should have approved commercial licenses in a mixed zone. She claims sometimes it can be the fault of the owner who rents the property.
“Some of them are renting from a landlord as well that may not have done their due diligence — so it’s bit complicated.” Global News reached out to the owner of the unit who claims the renters have been in the location for four years, and had a business in there before as well.
Wilson says, regardless of who caused the issue, she’s devastated that she’s been suddenly kicked out of the space where’s she’s been laying the foundation for her business for the last four years.
“Very, very disheartening, basically it’s my baby that I put my heart and soul into.”