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Trainer pleads for community support to save business

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Unbowed: Sophia Cannonier refusing to leave her fitness studio as she faces eviction (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A fitness centre in Devonshire was put out on the roadside yesterday as its landlord followed through on an eviction order.

Sophia Cannonier, who blames a drawn-out court case on falling $40,000 behind on rent, said bailiffs let themselves in to the Padma Studio to change the locks and begin removing furniture and exercise equipment to put outside.

“All of this will be down on the street and out in the rain, if I do not come up with $40,000,” she said.

In the elements: a bailiff removes furniture and equipment from Sophia Cannonier’s Padma Studio in Devonshire (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

She remained on the site while bailiffs carried out furniture.

The studio, which had a stock of Pilates equipment and a large amount of files and paperwork, was to be emptied from its warehouse premises by the end of the day.

Formal process: the locks are changed at Sophia Cannonier’s Padma Studio in Devonshire, as an eviction order backed by Magistrates’ Court goes into effect (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ms Cannonier has spent more than two years on a Magistrates’ Court trial with her husband, Michael Watson, after the couple challenged the island’s mandatory quarantine and vaccination requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic in July 2021.

Their case drew broad support in the community, from sceptics of the vaccine against Covid-19 to opponents of the island’s restrictions under emergency powers approved to contain the pandemic.

Ms Cannonier said she hoped more support would materialise to help her keep her business, which has been housed at the address on Marsh Lane, Devonshire for the past several years.

“I’m making a call to the community to help and to understand that this has happened because I have not been move forward with my business.

“Every few weeks I’ve had to be in court. This eviction can happen in one month, but a decision after more than two years on trial is still delayed.”

In the elements: a bailiff removes furniture and equipment from Sophia Cannonier’s Padma Studio in Devonshire (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

She added that her legal challenge had caused reputational harm to her business.

Ms Cannonier said her lawyer had been in talks with the lawyer for Westmount Holdings, which owns the property, in the hope that a surety bond filed with the court could avert full eviction.

She said she had been told by the Supreme Court that an application for judicial review into the delays that have fraught the trial in the lower court would not be able to stop the eviction from going ahead.

Ms Cannonier said she would accept a loan if it would save her business.

“What I would like is for my equipment to move back in tonight. I have a guarantee, but I don’t think that’s enough for the landlord.”

In the meantime, she has had to cancel classes, which she said were booked until December, and has lost her income.

“They are keeping me in limbo,” she said of the case, which was postponed repeatedly.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo was to deliver a judgment on a date to be announced after a hearing in September.

The Royal Gazette understands that notice went out over the summer that Mr Tokunbo would be retiring.

Ms Cannonier said the couple still did not know when a ruling on their case would be delivered, or even if Mr Tokunbo would be the one handing it down.

Marc Daniels, representing the couple, has argued that there was a defence of “reasonable excuse” not to adhere to the regulations, including the financial burden of being confined to a hotel for two weeks.

The couple also gave evidence that their antibodies from prior exposure to Covid-19 left them with a natural immunity to the virus that rendered vaccination irrelevant.

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Published November 17, 2023 at 12:07 pm (Updated November 17, 2023 at 12:07 pm)

Trainer pleads for community support to save business

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