Southside Ink Tattoo Shop: Can they Survive another Lockdown?

Southside Ink follows a set of guidelines for tattoo shops from ensuring that all customers who enter the shop is wearing a mask to the sanitization of their equipment. (Courtesy: Southside Ink)

Small businesses face financial hardships due to COVID-19

Southside Ink Toronto is currently closed due to the lockdown. (Courtesy: Southside Ink)

by Jessica Brown Mucket

Like many other businesses that require person-to-person contact, the tattoo industry underwent temporary closure in March to help curve the spread of  COVID-19. Closures of shops left tattoo artists with no jobs for months and business owners in limbo with an event they were not prepared for. Ten months later and Ontario is faced with yet another lockdown- one that could be fatal for most local businesses.

Nana Okyere (front, left) poses with four other artists, which is now reduced to two working in the shop. (Courtesy: Southside Ink)

Nana Okyere, the Southside Ink Shop owner, located on Lakeshore Boulevard West, says, "after COVID-19, we were not allowed to have guests', no walk-ins or food inside the premises." These regulations are just some of many that business owners must follow to ensure everyone's safety, making it more difficult for the local tattoo shops to strive financially.

"What is overwhelming is having you are rent thrown into our operation because now we have to operate on half capacity, and I can only have one artist on one floor."

With the layoffs of employees and the removal of walk-ins changed to scheduled bookings online, it meant for Okyere that revenue is declining on top of which in the light of another lockdown, they would be the first to close due to the jobs' invasive nature to the skin and the last to open.

As of today, Southside Ink has been closed even days before the lockdown occurred. Clients squeezed in last-minute appointments, and others were forced to cancel their upcoming appointments until further notice.

Southside Ink follows a set of guidelines for tattoo shops, ensuring that all customers who enter the shop are wearing masks to sanitize their equipment. (Courtesy: Southside Ink)

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), one-third of local businesses in Toronto say they will not survive another lockdown. Before the Christmas Holidays, statistics showed the sixty-six percent of people plan to spend their money at large retailers. This took a dramatic turn on small business in which some have been forced to close their doors, which have lost many customers to big-box retailers.

Okyere is not the only one.

"The popular quote was that we are all in this together. I agree with that statement, but I do not at the same time. I do not feel like Amazon and McDonalds, and all these big chains are not in it together with us. They get preferential treatment from the government over us. So I do not think we are all in this together- but this community is," Andy Dinner States.

Andy Dinner, the owner of Your Neighborhood Barber Shop, faces the same challenge but with a way around it to help keep his business and the one around him stay open. Dinner is located just down the street from Southside Ink, and he had watched many of his close neighbours and local store owners close their door due to financial difficulties. As a way of giving back to the community he has lived and been apart of for his entire life, he wanted to give back and repay for what they have done for him.

Andy Dinner, 33, standing outside of the newly opened shop in November. (Courtesy: Your Neighbourhood BarberShop)

"I felt like I needed to do something to help out my friends that have been very supportive of me since I opened up," Dinner said.

To promote local businesses and possibly increase traffic, Dinner went right to Instagram and started promoting this cool idea of bringing a copy of a receipt from any local business in the Lakeshore West community. A five-dollar discount will be thrown into a haircut. This promotion took off instantly, and it worked. Dinner's kind gesture became this idea that other businesses turned into a creativity of their own to survive and keep everyone happy through challenging times.

The Ontario government has provided Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) financial assistance to small business owners who have seen a decline in revenue covering commercial rent or property taxes. It began on September 27th and will go until June 2021.

For now, while Okyere waits for CERS to kick in and for things to get a bit better in business, she is working a full-time job away from the shop to keep a roof over her head and food on the table.

While a portion of small businesses may not be eligible for CERS, an opportunity to get creative and support others for many may be a way to survive yet, another brutal lockdown.







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