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We Are Caught In A Catch 22

Updated: May 14, 2020

By now I'm sure most of you have heard that on Friday, May 8th, our Governor of Connecticut has released the first phase of reopening our state to begin on May 20th. Of those businesses, personal services (hair), restaurants, museum and zoos, offices and retail and malls, are among the first phase to open. You can imagine the uproar this caused as most of our colleagues in the beauty profession, were shocked to hear that hair salons and barber shops (which are "high contact" establishments) were part of a plan to allow "low contact" businesses to open in two weeks.

In addition to Friday's press conference, Governor Lamont turned the floor over to David Lehman, from the Department of Economic and Community Development team, as he laid out seven guiding principals in reopening our state's economy. Among those seven principles, Governor Lamont kept reiterating the fact that, "In no way is the state mandating these businesses to open if they do not feel comfortable. However, for those owners that feel otherwise, they will have to comply with the rules they lay out to safeguard their employees and customers." (NBC Connecticut)

  • For more information on what those guidelines look like, click here.

  • For more information on those seven principles, click here.

How I feel about this...personally, I feel like May 20th is to soon to reopen salons and barber shops. However, the financial strain, coupled with fear and anxiety due to COVID-19, has led us to become so torn between the decision to open or delay the opening process. In a way, it has divided our community and has affected our businesses on all levels. The general consensus, I've gathered from friends in the industry is this...although they don't quite feel comfortable opening in these conditions, they feel like their livelihood is at stake, and they could risk losing everything they've worked so hard to build. "Many of them feel like they are caught in a catch 22." (FOX 61 News)

The other day while scrolling through Facebook, I came across this particular post from a group I belong to. Sydney Fair, a stylist working at Echo Salon located in Guilford, CT said this, "I'd like to say I'm not sure how I feel about salons reopening. I do agree it seems a little premature, but eventually it has to happen for all of us to "SURVIVE." Further more, "If the governor grants us the opportunity to make a living, even under these crazy guidelines, shouldn't we let them? The ones who choose to open on May 20th, I believe, won't have the time to accept new clients. They will be trying to reschedule all those appointments cancelled during shut down. I believe that our clients (our loyal ones especially) will wait for us to go back when we are ready and when they feel safe enough to do so."

Unfortunately, these are hard times we live in right now. Many beauty professionals, since the start of this pandemic have received little or no assistance at all from anyone...some of them have been out of a job, left their salons and weren't eligible to collect from unemployment, since the second week of March. Most of us working in this industry are financially struggling to make ends meet. What it boils down to is this...we are all caught in between a rock and a hard place, and we all need to be supportive of each other.

Laura Bratz, owner of Blush Bridal in Rocky Hill, CT, specializes in makeup, lash extensions and spray tans. Laura's main source of income is reliant on bridal and special events. As she goes on to explain, "With everything pushed out and rescheduled due to COVID-19, it has impacted my business substantially. I expect it to be slow at first, as some people have major hesitations about "resuming life as normal." But because most weddings I had booked are now postponed until the Fall, it's going to be a struggle all around no matter what." Laura is patiently waiting for official word on what guidelines look like for her, with the services she provides. She's not 100% clear that she is able to offer lash services, but seeing that she works in a salon setting, she is hoping she will be able to.

So many of us in our industry, are scrambling to purchase PPE and sanitation supplies in compliance with guidelines required for opening salons and shops. Many are worried they won't have these items in time, because they are either on back order or hard to come by. Bridgette D'Angelo Owner and Master Stylist of Headrush Salon in Enfield CT, has expressed concerns about opening during this time. She has ordered so many masks, gloves, etc. but unfortunately, nothing has been delivered yet.

Although she is ready, and has been taking extra measures to prepare her salon and team for re-opening her shop, she is worried that things won't be normal for a long while. "Wearing masks puts a damper on the whole salon atmosphere, as we can't see smiles and hear each other well." Bridgette goes on to say that instead of a relaxing, oasis vibe their clients are used to, it will be somewhat serious and a bit scary. "We have an extremely long list of protocols to follow that are required by the state in order to keep everyone safe. I'm afraid our clients might become more anxious than they already are, seeing us work like this. I don't believe May 20th is the right date for us, but I'm just so up in the air over everything."

Every salon is organized differently, and every single one of them have been preparing for the possible reopening of their shops, since they heard word of Georgia's Governor giving them the green light. Following the state's extremely long list of guidelines and safety protocols, countless hours have been spent both shopping and online shopping, filling their carts with as much PPE and safety equipment required, before allowing clients to come in.

Among those salon owners making sure they have everything they need prior to opening, is Nathaniel Bottone. Nathaniel is the owner of Salon Nathaniel, located in both Meriden and Wallingford, CT. He mentioned that, "This has been the most challenging time thus far, especially trying to keep up with all of the changes that the state keeps sharing with us." His salon has a staff of over 20 employees, spread across both locations. He has remained in constant contact with his consultant team, Summit Salon Consultant out of Canada, providing him with the resources needed, to get his salon through this crisis. "There has been a lot of communication between all staff members and we are taking all of their feelings and voices into consideration. The plan is to open for May 23rd, given that we have enough PPE, our product order from our distributor, and most importantly, sanitation guidelines from the state in order to safely and properly welcome our guests. If we don't have all three, we will remain closed until we do." He feels confident in his staff and like most of us, was surprised to hear we were part of phase one. "As long as we have each other, we will succeed." (Nathaniel Bottone, Salon Nathaniel)

Purchasing enough PPE to sustain a safe and viable working environment will be the hardest to manage and keep track of. Towards the beginning of this pandemic, local salons in the area were asked if they could donate any supplies. Most salons in the area were happy to oblige, seeing as how this viral disease, had quickly swept though our entire state. These supplies including gloves, masks and other protective gear, all donated to medical personnel, first responders and hospitals in our state. Now that we are required to have these items in salon, these extra supplies could affect budgeting expenses.

Nikki DeGregorio Suite Owner of Thairapy Salon commented, "I feel as a suite owner we are fortunate to work in a space that we have complete control over, regarding the amount of people we allow per visit. My concern is this long list of guidelines and laundering our towels, capes and aprons, we all have to change in between clients. There is only one laundry room for an entire building to wash their laundry. I'm certainly not prepared to bring any of these items home to clean, but I'm also not waiting around for a free washer and dryer to become available either." After talking with Nikki, I asked her what supplies she had ordered in preparation for opening her suite. She mentioned that the only feasible way she could realistically take clients and safely provide services, is choosing to purchase disposable items such as capes, neck strips and towels.

So to sum up these guidelines provided by our state, these are the rules and regulations set forth for us to follow. With the new guidelines in place, this has made it extremely difficult for many of us to work under these extreme conditions.

  1. Stylists and Barbers will need extra cutting tools, capes, towels, brushes, etc., to provide for each client and sanitized after every use.

  2. Stylists and Barbers need to block out a minimum of 20 minutes in between clients, in order to properly sanitize and clean their stations before their next guest arrives.

  3. Virtual consultations and health questionaires, will be asked prior to booking appointments to make sure guests have not been in contact or traveled outside the state to avoid further spread of COVID-19.

  4. Clients are scheduled "by appointment only," and are not allowed to bring a guest. There will be no waiting room for guests to sit in. Clients will be contacted via text or phone call to notify them of when they are allowed to come in for their appointments.

  5. Upon arrival, guests are to cleanse and sanitize their hands before services are rendered, and masks with ear loops are required to be worn at all times, no exceptions.

  6. The use of blow dryers in the salon and barber shops will be prohibited, to avoid pathogens from spreading in the air.

  7. Stylists and Barbers have to place distinct markers indicating a 6 ft distance, in order to adhere to proper social distancing regulations, however, we are within inches away from clients and touching them, while providing services. This rule is contradictory in itself.

  8. Stylists and Barbers must check temperatures upon guests arrival, and anyone displaying a temp over 99 must be sent home to quarantine.

  9. Customers who choose to visit hair salons and barber shops should be aware of the potential risks. Individuals over the age of 65 with health conditions should not visit hair salons and barber shops, but instead continue to stay home.

  10. Hours of operation will vary to limit the amount of people inside each establishment. We are required to maintain a 50% capacity limit in all hair salons and barber shops during this pandemic.

I think a majority of us feel that this list of safety guidelines, is an astronomically long list...but the hardest pill to swallow for many of us, is not being able to utilize our blow dryers. As a hairstylist, I personally feel that without a proper blowout, I won't be able to do any detailing to my haircuts. Finishing work is so imperative in our profession, and essentially what supports and maintains that particular style. Without the use of our blow dryers, the level of service we would normally provide for our clients, will be cut short and unfinished.

I'd be lying to myself if I didn't say that, I am among those who feel that May 20th is to early. It is to much of a health risk for me personally, to consider going back to work, so early on in our transition to reopen. The choice has been laid out for us to either move forward, or hold back a little while longer. There is no doubt in my mind that we all need to get back to work eventually, but I am hesitant because I strongly feel it isn't the right time or place for us to do so. But, I cannot speak for everyone, as they are experiencing the same storm, just in different boats. I do however, believe that as a community, we need to continue to voice our concerns, figure out what will work best for all of us, and fight this battle together.

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