An Ontario small business owner is defying current lockdown restrictions and opening his two tanning salons.

Christian Linkert, owner of The Sun Emporium in Barrie, announced in an Instagram video that he is open for business as of March 1, despite the region's grey-level restrictions.

The area was moved into a grey-level lockdown on March 1, meaning that personal care services, such as tanning salons, would not be able to operate.

"I am not a COVID denier [...]," Linkert emphasized in the video.

"I have been brought to this point where I have no other choice but to stay open and continue running my business." 

Linkert spoke to Narcity about his decision to reopen and what the experience has been like.

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Why are you opening your salons despite restrictions?

Linkert says that deciding to open his doors despite the lockdown was, "the easiest decision of [his] life to make."

"It was either I close those doors on Monday and [...] go bankrupt, or I stay open and see what happens."

In the Instagram video, he expresses it is "insane" that places such as Costco and Walmart are able to welcome visitors while other businesses such as restaurants and salons are forced to close.

Last month, he started a GoFundMe page in order to help save his business and was able to raise thousands in donations.

What safety protocols do you have in place?

Linkert emphasizes that there are multiple safety protocols in place at both of his salons.

These include reduced capacity, mandatory masks, assessment forms, and sanitization.

"You have to be a responsible part of the community and you have to take the precautions necessary," he says.

"We're arguing against Walmart, Costco, all these places that you can cram 400 people in, but you can't go ahead and do that same example."

In an Instagram video, he revealed that he has started selling food and clothing in his salons, comparing it to shopping at a mall.

What has the feedback been like?

"The feedback has been nothing but 150% positive," Linkert says.

He believes there hasn't been a lot of backlash because the community understands where he is coming from.

"We're not doing this because we don't believe in COVID. We're doing this to fight for our survival and to fight for every small business out there and raise awareness of what's happening to us."

A bylaw officer came by with a warning, and, while Linkert says his heart sunk a bit, the visit was amicable.

"It was totally fine. It wasn't a bad experience at all."

Do you think small businesses should be allowed to open during the pandemic?

"They're crushing us, they're crushing every business out there, and I think everybody should be open," Linkert says. "But you have to do it smart."

"We're doing this to survive, we're not doing this to defy anyone [...]" he says in the Instagram video.

He hopes people will continue to stand up for small businesses.

"We need to stand together as small business owners and we need to open, we need to let them know this is not okay."