HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont announced Monday he is delaying the reopening of hair salons and barbershops to June 1. Some salon owners and stylists say they are relieved, but others are livid that the decision was made so close to when they had planned to reopen.
Salons and barbershops were originally due to reopen on Wednesday, May 20, during phase one of the state’s reopen plan amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, we saw a protest urging Governor Lamont to postpone opening hair salons instead of letting them open Wednesday. So he did.
On Tuesday, there’s a protest planned here from hair salons who say they were all set to open tomorrow and now they can’t.
However, both Governor Lamont and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo now intend to reopen hair salons and barbershops in their respective states in early June. Lamont announced that the new target date for reopening salons and barbershops is June 1.
This announcement comes after several hairstylists and barbers expressed concerns about reopening. Many came forward to News 8 to express that salons should not be a part of this first stage, saying that the health risks, coupled with the state’s strict guidelines on social distancing, PPE, and limiting service, is not worth it.
The governor in a press conference apologizing, saying he heard the voices of hairstylists who have been saying for over a week that they are too afraid to go back to work, that they didn’t have enough time to acquire the proper PPE or be trained on it, find childcare, or found it impossible to socially distance at work.
Last week, hairstylists told News 8, “In the hairdressing industry, there’s really no such thing as social-distancing. We’re in direct physical contact.”
Some of the restrictions salons and barbershops will have to incorporate include 50% capacity in the building, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes present at entrance points, work stations must be six feet apart with physical barriers.
Additionally, at first, stylists weren’t going to be allowed to use blow dryers over concerns of moving possible contaminants around. However, that restriction was later reversed so salons would have been able to use hair dryers, (dome-shaped that go over the head, and hand-held). Salons and barbershops will also be taking clients by appointment only with no one allowed to wait in a waiting room.
“We want to get back to work, said Debra Ward. “When we do go back to work, we’re only able to do one client every 90 minutes. It’s not profitable yet.”
WATCH: Stylists have mixed reactions over delay in salon reopenings
Many salons felt pressure to open however, despite their concerns, in fear of losing customers.
“The problem is,” the co-owner of BRANDEDStyles in Newtown said, “if I choose not to open my salon, and the salon down the street opens, now my customers are going to the salon down the street.”
But Monday after making the announcement of the delay, Governor Lamont caught some heat from salon owners who spent the last week scrambling to get their business up and ready for a phase 1 reopening, only to be told with little advance notice they would have to wait.
We look at it from a pure health point of view. We had our committee say ‘these are ways you can do it safely,’ but in the last week two things happened: 1) I heard from a lot of stylists, from folks who run salons, they said ‘give us a lot more time.’ Employees coming back wanted an extra week or two. So we said June 1.– Governor Ned Lamont
But stylist Alyssa Wiener – who is immunocompromised says another week is not enough, “It’s not safe. The whole thing is we’d feel so much better if it was pushed back further” But, she says, she feels her voice was heard in the fight to push back the reopen date for salons. She says her colleagues faced a choice between their lives and their livelihood, until now.
But Leslie Beard, the co-owner of BRANDEDStyles, says she’s at the end of her rope.
“I never seen a bigger mess,” she said in reference to the way announcement was made so close to what would have been their reopen date after two months with zero income.
“The fact that he waited till today, this afternoon… I am so disgusted,” she said. “I have never seen a bigger mess. But what I have seen are hardworking families literally broken.”
Beard was gearing up for Wednesday, purchasing the required PPE with money she didn’t have – partly because she hasn’t been able to get her jobless benefits application through the Department of Labor’s online system to sustain her bank account.
“I’m spending money I don’t have so I can make some money this week so I can pay my bills,” Beard lamented. “But now he’s telling me I can’t. But I can’t get unemployment.”
Some stylists who were preparing to reopen on Wednesday say they’re frustrated and considering moving ahead with or without state approval. But Monday at his briefing, the governor made it clear: those found in violation of reopening standards will be penalized.
But how much difference will an eleven day postponement really make? That is the question some other owners and workers are asking. Margins are already going to be stretched tight with few customers allowed at a time and extra time scheduled in between for cleaning.
Keeping cash out of their hands for another week and a half will just make that worse, they say. Plus, some towns have had their health inspectors working overtime to get all the salons ready for Wednesday, now all that time was wasted.
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart openly disagreed with Lamont’s decision during News 8’s COVID-19: The Virtual Town Hall. She said Lamont needs to make a decision, “stick to it” and “see it through.”
She told News 8 she had 43 hair salons and barbershops working around the clock to get certified for Wednesday. She fears some salons will open regardless or worse, go out of business.
“We are going to be the ones responsible for local enforcement, not those people making the decisions,” she said, “and when you have a frustrated public, it is a recipe for disaster.”