INNISFAIL – An updated Business Licence Bylaw has given the town authority to revoke a business licence if the holder is found to have played too fast and loose with either provincial or federal statutes or regulations.
The move by the town comes after its long look into an emotionally charged controversy 13 months ago when local hair salon Bladez 2 Fadez Barbershop defied provincial COVID restrictions by illegally re-opening their business.
Natalie Klein, 44, co-owner of the hair salon, was served with two COVID-related provincial tickets on Jan. 13, 2021; one for removing a notice posted for public information and another for contravening an order of the chief medical officer of health. Her court trial dates, which have been repeatedly changed, are now set for June 2 and 3 in Red Deer provincial court.
"We've had a lot of public feedback and inquiry about the application of the business licence and its regulatory ability to impact this hair salon working outside the boundaries of the provincial government restrictions,” said Innisfail CAO Todd Becker 13 months ago of his review. “I am actually reviewing the (Business Licence) bylaw now to determine its place with this situation."
On Feb. 28 at town council’s regular meeting, Erica Vickers, the town’s director of corporate services, introduced an amended Business Licence Bylaw, which had not been updated since 2013. Following three readings, the amended Business Licence Bylaw was unanimously passed by council.
While a good portion of the bylaw update was for definition changes, and an important rewrite of the Farmers Market section, the amended Business Licence Bylaw now includes a new section that deals with the contravention of applicable federal and provincial statutes.
This section gives administration the ability to suspend, refuse to grant, revoke or refuse to renew an applicant’s Business Licence if he or she has contravened the updated bylaw, or any other local bylaw, or any applicable provincial or federal licensee, permits, approvals, clearances, insurances, statutes, regulations or acts.
Vickers emphasized enforcement of this section has to be “applicable” and relevant, not a “random federal act” that has nothing to do with the operation of a business.
She added this section of the approved updated Business Licence Bylaw can not be applied retroactively.
“We can not. It’s only going forward,” said Vickers, adding that in future cases where contraventions are suspected lawyers will be consulted. “In any cases where we were going to even look to invoke that section, we most likely would get legal opinion on that anyway. It wouldn’t be us to just decide to revoke someone’s business licence because it could cause quite a bit of concern out in the public.”
Meanwhile, the changes to the Business Licence Bylaw brings good news to entrepreneurs, especially ones from out-of-town, attending Innisfail markets and special events.
In the old Business Licence Bylaw there was a Farmers Market section but the update has changed it to Market License and covers all types, including farmers markets approved by the provincial and federal governments, as well as craft fairs and food trucks.
For markets and special events, the updated bylaw still requires the owner or organizer of both to get a licence but all attending vendors will be exempt.
Vickers said the reasoning behind it was that it was becoming harder to attract out-of-town vendors for markets or special events if they had to purchase their own specific business licences.
“What we found was a lot of vendors, like the tattoo artist or a food truck coming in from a different community, didn’t want to pay the fee even for a one-day licence,” said Vickers. “For an out-of-towner that was $60 and sometimes those people don’t even make that much money in revenue, so we were getting a lot of people being turned away or they were declining to come because of the cost.”
However, Vickers said the lead person or persons for a market, such as the new Market On Main, or special event have the option to either add an extra fee, whether its $5 or $10, to a vendor to help cover their licence cost, or they can just waive an additional fee.
“That is between the market holder and the vendors that they hire,” said Vickers, adding most vendors are likely already paying a rental for a booth or a stall.
As for any loss of licence revenue the town might realize, Vickers noted many vendors were not coming anyway to get a business licence as it was too expensive for them.
“This is likely a good change. I do feel it will give residents more options when it comes to the markets and special events that are happening,” she said. “It should not hinder any new businesses trying to come into town.”