Coronavirus: Store owner in Belleville, Ont., fined for opening doors during lockdown

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Kyle Thomson the owner of Park Provisioners Barbershop & Haberdashery says plans to stay open – Jan 21, 2021

A small business owner has been ordered to close and says he is facing a fine after opening the doors to his shop Wednesday during a provincewide coronavirus lockdown.

Kyle Thomson, who owns Park Provisioners Barbershop and Haberdashery, a men’s shop in Belleville, Ont., has been posting to his business’ Facebook page over the last week about his plans to break Ontario’s lockdown laws and reopen his store.

Those plans were executed Wednesday morning.

According to Thomson, Belleville police and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health officials came to his store within minutes of him opening his doors, ordering him to close and issuing a fine.

He told Global News he’s been closed since the Boxing Day lockdown began, but decided to reopen the Front Street store Wednesday morning.

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Read more: Gananoque business owner fined for breach of COVID-19 restrictions, police say

As a small business owner deemed non-essential by the province, Thomson argues that the province’s lockdowns are doing “more damage than COVID ever could,” and that provincial lockdown fines are “illegal.”

According to Belleville police, officers, along with health unit officials, were called to the store around 11 a.m.

Belleville police said they issued a fine for failing to comply with an order made during a declared emergency.

“The owner was informed by the Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit that he must close his doors and that they would seek a court order for him to do so,” Belleville police said in an emailed statement.

Read more: Coronavirus — Ontario declares 2nd state of emergency, issues stay-at-home order

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health said they are working on a response to Wednesday morning’s incident.

Thomson says he understands why police and public health officials showed up to his shop, but that he will not give up his cause.

“I want people to understand that anyone who needs to feed their family is essential,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

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“I’m going to remain open. Constitutionally and legally I am permitted to open,” he said.

He says about 35 to 45 customers have already visited his store since he reopened, some of whom, he claimed, voluntarily created a donation jar in his store that’s already stuffed with hundreds of dollars.

“Many customers have already stepped forward with donations to pay the fine,” he told Global News.

He will continue serving coffee, clothing and other merchandise at the men’s store — but says the barbershop side will remain closed. He says he’s also doing this in support of businesses that are nervous or risk being shamed for opening during the lockdown.

“I am willing to bear the brunt in support of other small businesses that have mouths to feed,” he said.

“I will gladly wear a mask and ask customers to wear a mask.”

In a video released last week, Thomson said he was not opening his doors to save his business, but simply to make a point.

“I’m done listening to a government that asks us to obey their mandates, which ultimately kill people and cause pain and suffering to many others,” he said in his video posted Jan. 14, without providing any evidence to back up his claims.

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In that same video, Thomson repeatedly questions the severity of the coronavirus, comparing it to the flu.

On Wednesday alone, Ontario recorded 89 new deaths across the province, bringing the death toll to 5,568. Over 18,400 people have died across Canada from COVID-19 complications since March.

I myself am personally done buying into their narratives and deception, and I won’t do it any longer. It doesn’t matter if you fully believe in this or if you think someone has taken you for [an] unsolicited ride,” Thomson said in his video.

On Wednesday, he argued that the lockdowns are not just having an impact on businesses, but are also adding stress and anxiety to people’s lives, and repeated an invitation that other businesses follow his lead by opening against provincial lockdown mandates, which are meant to end Feb. 11.

“Other people need to get out. There’s only so much social isolation they can take,” he said.

He says he fully expects authorities to return to his store, but added that he isn’t worried.

— With files from Global News’ Bill Hutchins.