The owner of a Winnipeg tattoo parlour that reopened in the face of COVID-19 public health orders says he’s been fined twice in three days’ work and was the target of a "threatening" visit from health inspectors.
Phil McLellan of Parlor Tattoos says he doesn’t regret his decision, even after receiving a pair of $1,296 tickets after being open Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The government has clearly, I believe, overstepped what they can and can’t do to a citizen of this province, as far as being able to earn a living," he said.
McLellan said the first ticket was delivered to his home Monday afternoon, by two health inspectors and three sheriff’s officers. A second ticket was issued at his Main Street shop by a health inspector and a supervisor Wednesday.
"I saw it sort of as an intimidation tactic — three sheriffs to hand someone a bylaw ticket?" he said. "It’s absolutely excessive."
McLellan said the officials advised to close up shop, and there were "other provisions in the public health act that (they) could use to keep (him) from working."
Asked for clarification, McLellan said they told him he would receive a letter in the coming days.
"At this point, I don’t know what they’re threatening me with, but it sounded a little ominous," he said.
Support for his decision to reopen amidst provincewide code red restrictions has come from fellow local businesses and even some outside the province and country, McLellan said.
He worries such support has resulted in it becoming less about enforcement of pandemic public health orders and more of a "personal and direct attack."
"That sounds to me like, because they see the momentum that it’s gaining with other small-business owners that are losing everything, that now someone is taking this as a personal attack on themselves," McLellan said.
If the province agreed to "at least entertain" proposed safe reopening proposals submitted by multiple tattoo artists and advocate organizations, McLellan said he would close up shop again.
When asked if he had read the proposals from body artist advocacy groups, Manitoba acting deputy chief provincial health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said the province was in the process of looking through all sectors to plan its future reopening process.
"We have regulated health professionals that are able to open and provide those services right now — tattoos and body piercing places aren’t regulated health professionals," he said Wednesday.
Until then, McLellan plans to stay open for as long as he’s able, and fight the tickets in court at a later date.
"That’s not a financial burden right now," the father of four said. "My financial burden right now is groceries, and hydro, and a roof over our heads."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.