By: Michelle Poirier
Local business owners are crying foul after being charged and fined for breaking COVID-19 rules.
So far, a total of eight businesses in Georgina have been charged and fined by bylaw officers.
And, there are signs the crackdown will continue.
Of the 26 charges laid in York Region between Monday, January 18 and Sunday, January 24, five – nearly 20 per cent – were laid in Georgina.
“The infractions are for failing to follow the rules for businesses as described in the Rules for Areas in Stage 1 issued under the Reopening Ontario Act,” said Tanya Thompson, Communications Manager for the Town of Georgina.
“These rules state that businesses must post a Safety Plan, and they must display their capacity limits.”
“At this point of the pandemic, officers are not encouraged to issue warnings; however, officers are authorized to use their discretion. If a warning is issued, it would be for a minor violation that can be corrected immediately,” she said.
But several business owners say the infractions are minor in nature, and, in some cases, no warnings were given before fines were issued.
Some say they were unfairly targeted, and they all say they intend to fight the fines in court.
The Post asked the Town to comment, but Ms. Thompson replied the Municipal Law Enforcement Division “cannot provide further comment at this time while the matters are going through the legal process.”
Angelo’s Sportswear in Keswick was the first business to be charged on January 5, although it was not for violating Reg. 82/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 1.
Instead, the store was charged for being open contrary to Pt. 1 – (ROA) Business Regulations.”
Roseann Guglietti, the store’s owner, received a $880 fine for displaying clothing racks outside her store.
She said she had been warned by a bylaw officer twice in December about the racks, before the provincial state of emergency, but that her father, Angelo Pillon, 87, who founded the store in 1966, is in the habit of bringing them out every morning.
“It’s something that’s done every single day; it’s been done every single day for the last 25 years,” she said.
After Mr. Pillon leaves, she said she pulls the racks in, but got busy and forgot the day she was fined.
“I said to them [in December], my dad is 87 years old, he does it every single day, I will do the best I can,” she said.
Ms. Guglietti said she will fight the fine in court. She said she doesn’t think a clothing rack can cause the spread of COVID-19, especially when Walmart is allowed to have shoppers indoors.
“Everybody is suffering here, and the bylaw people, the government people, they’re all getting paid still, we’re not. If we don’t do business, we don’t get paid,” she said.
“There has been support out there, but that support only takes you so far when you have $7,000 a month in rent to pay, and you have heat, hydro, and you still have to pay those when you’re in a lockdown.”
“We’re not out to hurt anybody; we wear our masks, we have sanitizer, we sell masks, we’re just here to make a living,” Ms. Guglietti said.
Sutton Smoke & Convenience and Ben’s Pharmacy in Sutton were fined last week for not posting capacity limits, which is an offence under Reg. 82/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 1 (ROA).
Nirav Patel, the owner of Sutton Smoke & Convenience, believes his business was unfairly targeted, as no one else in the plaza was fined, even though they also did not display capacity limits.
Mr. Patel said that he was fined for not having a “single piece of paper” in his window, and doesn’t understand why he wasn’t given a warning first.
He said he also intends to fight the fine in court.
Erin Abdel-Sayed, the owner of Ben’s Pharmacy, is also upset about being fined for not displaying capacity limits in her window.
She said no one told her it was required, and she also wonders why she wasn’t warned first.
She also said the bylaw officer was misinformed about the pharmacy’s capacity limits.
“He said we’re only allowed 25 per cent capacity. But we’re essential, so we’re allowed 50 per cent,” said Ms. Abdel-Sayed, who will also go to court to fight the fine.
“We have been working very hard through the pandemic. We have been risking our lives, and our families lives every day here to serve our community and serve all the patients here. That’s not how we should be treated.”