How downtown Kamloops businesses are sticking up for one of their own | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How downtown Kamloops businesses are sticking up for one of their own

A sign in the window of Continental Barber Shop that reads: Thank you beautiful people of Kamloops for your unbelievable heartwarming support, you make us so proud! Keep your voices loud! Report crime, make Kamloops safe!
July 22, 2021 - 6:00 PM

Small businesses in downtown Kamloops are taking action against crime by installing signs in their store front windows in response to a recent act of criminal activity and a shared fear their businesses are not being protected.

The signs read, "We Stand With Continental Barber Shop", a shop that was the victim of crime on Canada Day. The incident, and the way it was managed by the City of Kamloops community services department, inspired a sign campaign for the safety, support and protection of downtown businesses. Lise Mitra is the owner of Continental Barber Shop.

“On Canada Day a person with no fixed address broke the window at my shop,” she explained. “Fellow residents held him down until police arrived. The following day I boarded up the broken window and wrote a sign on it, thanking the residents who helped in the incident. At the bottom I wrote ‘let’s make Kamloops safe again and report crime’. Instead of showing any kind of concern or compassion regarding the crime, City of Kamloops community services department told me to take the sign down and threatened me with fines. I was informed I was breaking a sign bylaw." 

Mitra took the sign down and replaced the window. But she says the incident left her feeling frustrated, alone and unsupported by city law enforcement.

A sign in the window of the Bikini Bills store on Victoria Street in Kamloops. The sign is part of campaign to increase support and protection for downtown businesses in Kamloops.
A sign in the window of the Bikini Bills store on Victoria Street in Kamloops. The sign is part of campaign to increase support and protection for downtown businesses in Kamloops.

"There is so much criminal activity in downtown Kamloops," she said. "The law turns a blind eye to it as we small businesses pay the price, cleaning up feces, garbage and needles out of our alcoves every morning and repairing windows on a regular basis. I put up a sign and get threatened with fines. This is so wrong."

Bill Sanesh Jr, owner of Bikini Bills, made signs for downtown small businesses to put in their windows as a stand against crime on businesses. The signs are simple bold black letters that read “We Stand With Continental Barber Shop”. He is selling the signs to other small businesses for $15 or in exchange for gift cards.

“A sign complaint is addressed right away but when we complain about feces and criminal activity, nothing happens,” Sanesh Jr said. “The City seems to have zero compassion for downtown businesses. I didn’t have a connection with Continental Barber Shop, but when their window got smashed, as ours has many times here in the past, I felt I had to do something to support them. I was born and raised here and the decomposition of the downtown core in the past five years breaks my heart.”

Sanesh Jr says he has been contacted by five local businesses for window signs as of the morning of July 21. They are available for purchase at Bikini Bills at 143 Victoria Street.

Mitra has put up a new sign in her shop window that is similar to the original one.

"It is my way of joining the movement and taking a stand against crime," she said. "Everyone has given me such incredible support it makes me cry. We downtown businesses feel completely unsupported by the law here. I am hoping more people will put a sign in their store front windows to help be a voice of much needed change."

When asked for comment for publication, Community Service Manager with the City of Kamloops, Tammy Blundell said, "Please contact our communications department. I have nothing to say to the media." The City Communications department directed requests for comment back to Blundell before sending this statement from supervisor Kristen Rodrigue: "The City of Kamloops will not be responding to further media inquiries regarding the Continental Barbershop. The bylaw infraction has been resolved and no fines were issued. If there is any follow-up required on staff or service-level concerns related to this request for service, they would be managed internally."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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