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Salon and Barbershop Owners React to California’s Third Lockdown

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While the salon industry as a whole has suffered tremendously from the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, for California’s salon professionals, it has been truly devastating. Over the past nine months, California salons and barbershops have been forced to shut down, reopen with reduced capacity, shut down again, reopen outdoors, move back indoors (as part of a tiered reopening plan), and now shut down again — for the third time.

Governor Gavin Newsom first announced plans for a three-week regional lockdown on Dec. 3rd and the stay-at-home order later went into effect on Dec. 6th, after being triggered by rising ICU bed capacity. For many business owners who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, the news has been a tough pill to swallow.

While some people have chosen to comply with the stay-at-home order, others have instead chosen to openly defy lockdown orders and continue offering hair services to their clients. Regardless of their stance, many barbers and stylists are unsure on whether their business will even survive a third lockdown.

To better understand the impact that California’s most recent stay-at-home order is having on the salon industry , The Tease spoke to business owners about their feelings towards the order and how the third lockdown is affecting their business. 

Cruz Hernandez

Owner of G.E.N.T.S Barber Lodge, @ono_official

Location: Los Angeles

The Tease: What was your reaction when Gov. Newsom announced on Dec. 3rd that a new stay-at-home order would take effect throughout much of California within the next few days?

Cruz Hernandez: I wasn’t surprised. The shutdown order was expected. With the gathering of families for the holidays, you can easily presume that case numbers would go up and the governor would make the call to issue a shutdown of his many go-to small businesses.

How did you prepare for the impending shutdown?

Hernandez: After a discussion with my business partner at G.E.N.T.S. Barber Lodge, which is a small and private two chair studio where the max amount of people at one time is four occupants (including ourselves), we weighed the possible outcomes and penalties of shutting down versus defying the order. Ultimately, we decided to join many barbershops and salons to defy the order and operate as usual.

We take payment at booking on our website to reduce the amount of hand-to-hand transitions. We have hand sanitizer and masks available for ourselves and clients, non-contact thermometers, face shields, gloves that we change in between clients, disinfectants and sterilizing equipment for our tools as well as anything that someone may have been in contact with. We have put together a thorough process to help our clients feel and be safe in our establishment. Many customers have let us know that our process has made them feel extremely comfortable visiting us for their services.

Why did you decide to disregard Newsom’s order and continue to provide your clients with hair services?

Hernandez: Following the Governor’s third order to shut down, I simply didn’t agree. It seemed as if it was his go-to move when he felt that something needed to be done. Was there an explanation or a purpose? Are we the reason for spikes in cases? There was nothing told or shown to us regarding the relativity to the professionals in our industry and this virus. New York has shown their statistics of how only 0.14% of their cases have come from barbershops and salons but we have received nothing when it comes to similar data at this point here in California. The State of California has trained, regulated, tested and licensed us in health and sanitation. California trusted us with their health and safety before, can they no longer trust us now?

Are you worried about being fined by your county for staying open? Why or why not?

Hernandez: Yes, I am worried but I feel I am being presented with no other option. If I comply with the orders, I could lose my business. Prior to these shutdown orders, it was a highly successful business. If I don’t comply, I could lose my professional license and business license on top of the fines that may be carried out. With both of these options, I lose my business. If I’m going to lose my business anyways, I might as well lose it because I am doing what my business is made to do. I am here to service my clients and to make sure that those who choose to come to my establishment during these times are comfortable and are receiving a service that is safe in comparison to what they may receive elsewhere if I choose to remain closed.

With each lockdown, salons and barbershops have generally been some of the first businesses to close and the last to reopen. What do you think should have been done differently when it comes to the handling of the salon industry during this time?

Hernandez: Communication is key. It doesn’t seem as if there has been enough communication all round. We look to the State Board for information for our industry and they have almost entirely been quiet throughout this process. I have personally reached out to as many of my local representatives that I could to express my concerns and outline my personal situation as their constituent during these times. The governor, mayor, assemblyman, senator, and council member have all been reached out to on my part and I have either been fully ignored by them, told that their office doesn’t handle that particular situation, or given a tone-deaf blanket statement on how to comply with the orders. It seems as if they’ve basically kicked the can down the street hoping it becomes somebody else’s problem while we’re suffering the repercussions of these orders. Gabriel Quiñones is a barber that has recently been elected to his City Council. It is great to know there is someone out there that’s part of our industry that’s in the room where decisions are being made.

Rachel Stefanik

Hair & Wig Artist, @hairpaintedwithlove

Location: Bay Area

The Tease: What was your reaction when Gov. Newsom announced on Dec. 3rd that a new stay-at-home order would take effect throughout much of California within the next few days?

Rachel Stefanik: I actually was not surprised by the most recent shutdown. I knew after Thanksgiving and everyone traveling for the holiday that there would be a spike. The Bay Area has been particularly strict and so I knew a shutdown was coming. Despite Newsom’s order saying that we would shut down when we reached the 15% capacity limit at hospitals, our county officials shut us down anyway. Alameda county gave us a three-day notice to shut down our businesses.

How did you prepare for the impending shutdown?

Stefanik: Because I had a feeling this would happen again, I prepared a Black Friday sale on custom wigs that I had been doing. I knew I had to take advantage of that day where people actually wanted to spend money and support small businesses. I have had to come up with other streams of income during this pandemic and luckily I have been able to sell wigs and products to keep myself afloat.

How did you notify your clients and what was their reaction?

Stefanik: My clients were of course very understanding about the shutdown. By now they know how it will go. I will reach out to them to reschedule when we get the go-ahead for the re-opening. Overall, I am super grateful for my clients. They have been so supportive and empathetic towards my situation. They have supported me by buying products, color kits, and even wigs which I am so thankful for.

The holiday season is typically a pretty busy time for the salon industry, how are you feeling about the timing of this lockdown compared to prior lockdowns?

Stefanik: It is infuriating to be shut down in December. This month was fully booked and it was my time to make as much money as I could. For the entirety of 2020, I was able to work for about four months. I lost 75% of my income and drained my savings.

How are you feeling about the future of your business after now having to deal with your third shutdown this year?

Stefanik: Personally, I am very worried about my business and I don’t think it will be the same for at least another year. A ton of my clients have moved away or have lost their jobs and can’t afford to get their hair done. Some people just decided to forgo getting their hair done because why spend money getting your hair colored when you are just stock at home. A lot has changed and I don’t expect the salon industry to go back to normal until 2022. I can only hope that the new administration will provide some economic relief for our small businesses. If that doesn’t happen and we continue to stay shut down, I will probably just have to work anyway. I don’t have a lot of money left to keep me going.

Stevie Meech

Owner of Stevie the Salon, @hairbystevie

Location: San Diego

The Tease: What was your reaction when Gov. Newsom announced on Dec. 3rd that a new stay-at-home order would take effect throughout much of California within the next few days?

Stevie Meech: I was not shocked by this. In fact, I believe if Newsom has his way this will be one of several more.

How much time after Gov. Newsom’s announcement did you have before you were forced to stop offering hair services and essentially close down?

Meech: I try not to listen to Newsom’s updates because I get too enraged. We get no warnings other than “within days” and then boom, we reach the magic number for the shutdown to go into effect and we have until midnight that day. So, it was really hours.

The holiday season is typically a pretty busy time for the salon industry, how are you feeling about the timing of this lockdown compared to prior lockdowns?

Meech: I feel enraged. There is nothing but ignorance when it comes to our industry by our “leaders”.

With each lockdown, salons and barbershops have generally been some of the first businesses to close and the last to reopen. What do you think should have been done differently when it comes to the handling of the salon industry during this time?

Meech: We shouldn’t be shut down unless everything is shut down. The problem is our leaders do not care.

How are you feeling about the future of your business?

Meech: I feel hopeful about our business, however if we keep playing by the rules, nothing will change. We’re always the ones to be shut down even though the numbers reflect otherwise. In San Diego county, the largest outbreaks are happening at senior living, restaurants, manufacturing, and retail. 

Have you been impacted by California’s most recent stay-at-home order? Let us know in the comments below!

Camille Nzengung
Camille Nzengung
Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor, based in Georgia, covering all things hair at The Tease. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches.