The City of Guelph said it could consider revoking business licences of those that repeatedly disobey the provincial shutdown order.
They add it would be for repeated offenders and only as a last resort.
City spokesperson Stacey Hare said it is within the city’s right to revoke a business licence for a business that is not obeying a law.
“It’s not specific to the COVID guidelines or the stay-at-home order,” she said, “It would have to be a situation that had escalated with repeat violations or really blatant, or flouting the rules.”
Hare explains a business license is like other licenses, but it does have conditions.
To operate with a business license, the city’s business licence bylaw requires the licensee to follow all local, provincial and federal laws. Caught breaking a law, the city may decide to restrict or revoke a business license.
The city has restricted several licenses in the past, all which have been restored, she said.
While the city has the ability to revoke a license, Hare said they have only done it once before, closing a business. The licence was then restored after the business agreed to comply with all local, provincial and federal laws.
“It’s not something we do lightly or do regularly.”
Any business not following COVID-19 guidelines during the current stay-at-home order, Hare said the city would first issue a warning and then a set fine. Under the Reopening Ontario Act, the fine is $750.
Repeat violations result in the city issuing the business owner a court summons. If convicted by a court, the business could face a penalty up to $10,000.
“You get a warning, you get a fine, you get a court summons, and if we’re coming back again and again and again, then we take the measure of considering revoking a license,” said Hare.
Outside of businesses, obstructing anyone performing an activity or duty under the Reopening Ontario Act will be charged a fine of $1,000.
When it comes to recent fines and penalties from the city, Hare said a charge was issued to a business, failure to comply, over the weekend.
“As far as I know today(Thursday) , we haven’t done that, issue a charge.”
Hare mentions bylaw officers are also visiting businesses that have been advertising online that they are staying open, including recently visiting Acqua Hair Salon.
With Acqua Hair Salon, she explains the business has not received a fine or summons from bylaw, as officers did not find them conducting business or delivering personal services.
“Before the province-wide stay-at-home order, while they were in shutdown, they were offering retail products for sale, but they weren’t delivering personal services,” said Hare, “Now, with the stay-at-home order they have to be closed.”
Recognizing that the current stay-at-home order is frustrating for businesses and families, Hare said the city is taking the situation very seriously.
“We desperately want people following the guidelines so that this is the last shutdown,” she said, “No one wants to do this again, and so we’re taking a fair and reasonable approach.”
“Most people know the guidelines, most people are following them, if you’re blatantly disregarding them, you’re putting other people at risk, including your employees and your customers.”