Salons and barbershops remain in limbo

Jenny and Dayna Black of Carousel Salon and Spa are awaiting the chance to reopen.

Businesses in all sectors have been hit in varying ways because of the closures brought on by COVID-19. Some have been able to remain open throughout the lockdown with changes to health and safety protocols in place, while others have only recently been able to welcome back customers. As time goes on and the virus’ spread continues to slow, the province will allow more businesses to open and return things to a more normal way of life.

However, businesses like hair salons and others considered personal service settings will be some of the last to open. As such, their futures remain uncertain.

The state of limbo has been difficult for Jenny and Dayna Black, owners of Carousel Salon and Spa in Elmira. Just like every other business in their industry, they’ve had to shut their doors with no income over the last three months. They had to take out a government loan to keep themselves afloat, and while they didn’t want to do it, they found it necessary to keep their salon – which has been open 45 years – going.

“We had to take out the loan from the government to help us get through these times, and thank goodness the government let us,” said Jenny. “We certainly did not want to do that, but we had to do something to keep our salon going because we’re hoping when we get back, we can survive.”

They say they are fortunate to own their own property, so the rent is not an issue for them, adding that their status could become more precarious as the situation drags on.

Not every salon and barbershop is in the same position, however.

Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs in Ontario with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says such businesses are going to be the ones most affected by the pandemic as their bills keep piling up and reopening remains elusive. In fact, Kwiecinski says 34 per cent of businesses are behind in their payments and this number is not expected to go down for certain industries as the pandemic continues.

“It’s really a challenge for businesses like hair salons that, clearly, their business models involve direct contact with their customers. They would like to get back to business as soon as possible when it’s safe to do so, so they can start generating revenue, but we want to make sure that when they do go back that it’s safe to do so,” said Kwiecinski. “The last thing you’d want is for these businesses to have to close again if there’s a second or a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

When they do finally get back to work, things will definitely not be the same for those rushing to be first in line, to get the haircut for which they’ve been longing. Dayna says there will be fewer people working at once in the salon and fewer customers allowed in at any one time. They will be sanitizing between customers and wearing masks and shields to ensure the safety of everyone who comes inside. They also say they won’t be able to offer customers things like coffee anymore.

Carousel Salon and Spa has already started preparing to reopen by purchasing the necessary personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and other needed items. They’re ready to go once they get the word it’s okay from the government and Kwiecinski encourages other businesses to do the same.

“Set your store up to make sure that you follow the guidelines and that (way) you don’t get into any issues with inspectors that come by,” said Kwiecinski.

The CFIB has a kit prepared to help businesses that are looking for assistance on reopening. It can be found online.

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