INNISFAIL, ALTA. -- An Innisfail, Alta. barbershop, co-owned by the niece of late Premier Ralph Klein, opened for business Tuesday defying the provincial COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that were extended last week.

Natalie Klein and husband Yanik Brazeau, co-owners of Bladez 2 Fadez Barbershop, say they followed the province’s original 28-day COVID-19-related order issued Dec. 8, but refused to heed the two-week extended closure.

“We've decided to open in light of the last four weeks of government's defying restrictions in their own government,” Klein explained.  “And I think they've proven to the Albertans that it is safe to do so to open our businesses if they're not obeying their own mandatory regulations.”

 The government recommendations against travel outside Alberta were not mandatory, but many, like Klein, saw the travel as a sign that some in government were not heeding their own advice.

Klein says during the lockdown they’ve cleaned the shop preparing for reopening and applied for the funding to support small-medium business but have received no support.

“They expect us to go four weeks with no income, we still have a business, bills are piling up, we have cut off notices at the house.

“We don’t have any backup funds, you know, after four weeks of shutdown and an additional two weeks is crippling,” said Klein.   

 Klein says she’s making a stand not just for her business, but for the entire service industry.

"I need to do this for everybody in my industry,” she said. “to stand up for small businesses because our lives are being stripped from us with Kenny’s whack a mole approach to lockdowns.”

'I like supporting local'

The first person in the door Tuesday was Daryl Dyck, who said he couldn’t wait to get in the barber’s chair.

“I need a haircut and they were open.” Dyck said with a laugh. “I like supporting local and when I found out there’s a place open, I wanted to come support them.”

Dyck doesn’t see himself as someone who’s defying the government but rather as just a part of the population that wants to live their life.

“I don’t think the government has a right to stop my life based on what they’re afraid of, if people are afraid, I understand but they can stay home,” Dyck said.

The reopening of the shop was supported by former town councillor and current mayoral candidate Glen Carritt.

Carritt left his place on council Monday after facing criticism from fellow councillors for supporting a business that is flouting the law, while being a lawmaker himself.

“I’m just supporting the fact that they’re opening, I do not support things being illegal. So, my question is why do businesses have to choose between illegal and survival?” Carritt said.  “That shouldn’t be their choice. These people, they’re at their wit’s end, you know, they need to survive, they need to put food on the table.”

Innisfail’s mayor insists the town council supports small business, but can’t support businesses that defy the provincial health order.

In response to Carritt's decision to leave Innisfail Mayor Jim Romane said, “I think his heart was in the right place in trying to represent small businesses, but on the other hand, it wasn’t acceptable in the eyes of council.”

Just after 1 p.m. Tuesday an Alberta Health Services representative, accompanied by RCMP officers entered the salon posting a closure notice on the door, and threatening Klein with fines of up to $5000 per day if she remains open.

Klein calls it intimidation and says she won’t back down.  Within minutes of the police and AHS leaving the closure notice had been removed from the shop’s front door and a new customer was in the chair.

“They are like vultures, they just waited until I was alone and attacked me,” said Klein “but yes, I will stay open. At this point I’ve lost everything anyway.”

Both Klein and Brazie say they are willing to face the legal consequences of breaking the provincial health order. 

Anyone violating a public can be prosecuted for up to $100,000, even for a first offense.