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Revelstoke yoga studio owner plans to fight fines

Alchemy Studio was recently fined for violating public health orders after continuing to host yoga classes.
Image Credit: Submitted/Rebecca Marchidon
April 14, 2021 - 7:00 AM

The owner of a Revelstoke yoga studio recently fined for violating public health orders plans to take her fight to court.

Rebecca Marchildon, owner of Alchemy Studio, says her business has been following guidelines and continuing strict cleaning protocols for 14 months, and has never received a contact-tracing call in that time. In her attempts to balance public health orders, Marchildon cancelled all ‘high intensity’ classes that her studio would normally host, as well as maintaining strict cleaning protocols.

“When you've done everything right all along and had no outbreaks, then, for a third time, ordered to close, it's devastating,” Marchildon said.

READ MORE: Revelstoke fitness club violates health orders, gets $2,500 in fines

RCMP issued fines to her business on April 8, 2021, when there were five clients in Alchemy’s 1,300 square foot studio. These fines follow tightened provincial health orders restricting indoor fitness classes to individual sessions. The three-week so-called 'circuit breaker' restrictions are set to expire on April 19.

Marchildon said she did receive a warning from someone in the community that the studio was reported to the RCMP for violating the newer restrictions, but they continued with a “slow flow stretch” yoga class. When officers arrived at the studio, they issued an initial $2,300 fine for non-compliance to the public health order, then added a $230 fine for refusing to stop the class.

She also knows who reported the violation, but she was careful to avoid identifying them.

READ MORE: Protesters in Kelowna have nothing to fear from RCMP, as long as they stay safe

“The police we spoke to said, ‘we don’t agree, but we’re just doing our job,’” Marchildon said, adding that she got a similar comment from an Interior Health employee.

Marchildon said she feels like she's been "backed into a corner." Police told her to speak to the public health officer with any appeals, which she's tried. She's written letters and made phone calls to provincial health authorities to be reconsidered, but has since gotten little contact in return for her pleas.

Although there are government supports available for small businesses, Marchildon says her studio has “fallen through the cracks.”

All her employees are subcontractors, which she said deems her ineligible for the wage subsidy. She also owns the property where her business sits, so does not qualify for rent subsidies. The other restriction was that in order to be eligible for some support, a business must have net positive revenue in 2019, but she first opened her studio in late-2019 after renovating the property, leaving her to dig into savings and accrue more debt to stay afloat.

Now she says she'll have to sell her house to make up for personal losses.

"We stay open or we go bankrupt. When you have nothing to lose, you're going to defy," said Marchildon. "We're not antimaskers or anything like that. We abide by all the rules. Other than closing."

She plans to take the fines to court with the help of a local lawyer who reached out and offered to represent her at no charge.

“If there was any reason to shut us down, any cases that were contact-traced to us, then of course we would close down. But there’s been zero,” she said. “(Health authorities) don’t show us any data and they’re not transparent. It’s really troubling for small businesses. You can’t earn an income, then you have to pay money (for noncompliance).”

Alchemy Studio still remains open, now offering new outdoor classes.

READ MORE: 299 cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health since Friday, 3,289 in B.C.

“We had a number of members from our community volunteer to build an outdoor deck, but on that day it was snowing. We’re doing slow-flow stretches so cold weather is not helpful,” Marchildon said.

The efforts came together when news of the fines they are facing broke out. She said a mix of local contractors and community members decided to help them build a deck outside so they can host classes while abiding by provincial health orders.

The first outdoor class was held this morning, April 12.

Image Credit: Submitted/Rebecca Marchildon

READ MORE: New restrictions on indoor dining, church services and gyms in B.C.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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