Ontario spas reopen as production studios, but bylaw still gave them tickets!

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From blockbuster to bomb…

You may recall our stories on Chrome Artistic Barbering and Evolution Salon & Spa, both located in St. Catharines, Ont.

To recap: the owner of Chrome, Alicia Hirter, did some thorough research to find out how she could get back in business and make a living by providing a service to her clients. And she discovered that she’d be legally allowed to reopen if she reimagined her barbershop as a film production studio. Naturally, such a studio would offer auditions for aspiring stars. And of course, part of that audition would involve getting a haircut.

She ran her idea by a City of St. Catharines bylaw officer, and he gave Alicia the thumbs up. And soon thereafter it was, “Lights! Camera! Scissors!” as Alicia and her employee, Carla DeFabio, got busy auditioning a long list of clients. In fact, within days, she was booked solid until March!

Alicia also reached out to Dennis and Lisa Costantini, the owners of Evolution Salon & Spa. They thought her idea was brilliant, so they, too, reimagined Evolution as a film production studio and reopened for business.

Things were running smoothly for both film production companies for a couple of weeks. But then, this seemingly happy feel good story took a dire plot twist.

On the same day, officers with the City of St. Catharines, Niagara Region, and the Ontario Ministry of Labour descended upon the two studios, and handed out fines and summons for violating the mandates of the perversely named Reopening Ontario Act.

And the bylaw bullies vowed to return with more fines if the studios continued operating. After all, Premier Doug Ford doesn’t want that vile virus known as freedom to spread further in the province…

Yet the question arises: why the double standard? There are big-budget movies and TV shows being filmed across Canada right now. As the saying goes, “The show must go on!” — pandemic or no pandemic.

Indeed, the hit show, The Bachelorette, is set to be shot for 65 days straight at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta. And so far, at least nine TV shows and movies will be shot in the Toronto area this year alone.

So why can those productions go ahead, yet small documentaries being filmed by two little St. Catharines film studios cannot?

We think these entrepreneurs have been given a raw deal. Which is why we’ve taken on Chrome Artistic Barbering and Evolution Salon & Spa as our newest Fight the Fines clients. And if you want to help crowdfund their legal fees, please go to FightTheFines.com and make a donation. Let’s collectively ensure their tale has a happy ending.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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Are you a small business who is still banned from opening in Canada, but plan to reopen your restaurant, store or gym anyway? Let us know, and we’ll report your breaking story. Simply fill out the form on this page with your details.


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