The owner of a diving shop in Kentville, N.S., who was fined $11,622 on Tuesday for opening during the provincial lockdown says the third-wave restrictions are unfair and hurting small businesses.
"I just needed a voice to help everyone, all the small business owners ... The big box stores can do basically whatever they want," Mike Huntley, who runs Sand and Sea Dive Shop, told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday.
Right now, only businesses that sell essential products are allowed to be open to in-person shopping. That's why Huntley said he stocked his shelves with commercial cleaning supplies, "just to, you know, play the game. I'm selling essential products."
When police officers arrived, "they looked around, sort of scoffed at the fact that I had cleaning supplies there because they know that's not my typical business," said Huntley.
Kentville Police Service confirmed on Facebook that officers received a report of a non-essential business being open last Friday. Police said they spoke with the owner that day and returned Tuesday when the store opened again to charge the business under the Health Protection Act.
Huntley said he closely followed public health measures when he was open, and only allowed one or two customers to shop by appointment at a time. He said customers were required to wear masks and leave their information for contact tracing.
"It's pretty simple, but no one's allowing us to do that, and sometimes curbside pickup just does not cover it," he said.
Huntley said he plans to fight the ticket.
People need access to groceries, says premier
At last Friday's news briefing, Premier Iain Rankin responded to questions about big box stores, saying the concerns from small businesses are important but that people also need access to groceries at larger stores.
"It's not about what the size of the business is, the criteria is more about what they sell," he said.
Rankin said it wasn't easy to put the restrictions in place or extend them until at least June 9.
"But we have to do what is in all of our collective best interests right now so that we can get to a point where we can open up sooner," he said.
Last week the province also announced another $17.2 million toward the small business impact grant. But Jason Selby, who owns Selby's Bunker Coffee and Gifts in Cole Harbour, said it's not enough.
"If our government is serious about working with us and not just benefiting the big American conglomerates that are in our communities, I mean, we need a reopening plan that is tied to these health benchmarks and also recovery plans," he said.
Rankin has said he'll release more details about Nova Scotia's reopening plan on Friday.
Huntley hopes it includes a provision for small retailers to reopen to a few customers at a time depending on how much space they have.
"We're not asking for the sky," he said. "We're just asking to make a little bit of money."
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