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Under-fire trainer gets new East End space for business

Fitness and dance instructor Sophia Cannonier celebrates her new location in St George's with supporter Corin Smith (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

A fitness and dance instructor left waiting on a court ruling after she and her partner challenged the island’s Covid-19 regulations has a new place for her business — two weeks after her eviction from her old premises.

Sophia Cannonier has brought her Padma Studio to the old Somers Playhouse in St George’s, thanks to her supporters in a community group that includes two trustees of the historic property.

Corin Smith and Gladwyn Simmons, of the Emperial Group, said they backed Ms Cannonier and her partner, Michael Watson, in their stand against the island’s strict regulations during the pandemic.

Ms Cannonier blamed the lengthy trial and reputational damage as well as the loss of business during the pandemic for falling $40,000 behind on rent at her former location in Devonshire, prompting her landlord to serve notice and get bailiffs to move out her furniture and equipment.

Mr Smith told The Royal Gazette: “Now I guess that I am her landlord.”

He said the couple’s medical argument of natural immunity to Covid-19 versus the requirement to be vaccinated as a traveller could have profound implications when Magistrates’ Court hands down a judgment on their case.

“This is about setting a precedent,” he added. “The precedent will be important for other countries as well.”

The couple have expressed frustration at the long wait for the ruling from presiding magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo.

Ms Cannonier said they had been waiting 12 weeks as of this week.

She added: “The emergency powers for Covid came to an end on November 30, 2022 — one year ago, and I still have not received a judgment.”

The Somers Playhouse on Wellington Street was owned by the Pride Of India Lodge — one of the island’s friendly societies, of crucial importance to the Black community in the wake of emancipation.

The Emperial Group is keen to restore it as a community centre.

The interior of the old theatre is being converted to accommodate Ms Cannonier’s aerial dance classes.

“This is the beginning of the future,” she said. “Once I get the aerial classes down here, I would think that in January, I will be able to hold pilates classes.

“I may have to use a temporary share space in Hamilton because of the location and the convenience.”

Ms Cannonier said she had received no word from Magistrates’ Court on the status of her judgment.

The couple have also applied to the Supreme Court for a judicial review challenging the trial for its delays.

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Published December 04, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated December 04, 2023 at 7:27 am)

Under-fire trainer gets new East End space for business

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