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Walnut Creek Magazine

With Hair Salons Shut Down, Stylists Are Searching for Options

Aug 17, 2020 07:22PM ● By Harper Klein

In mid-July, a little over a month after hairstylists were given the green light to invite clients back into their chairs—with a boatload of new rules and restrictions—Governor Gavin Newsom mandated that salons across California shutter once again, a week later granting permission to open outside for haircuts. Now one month later, as coronavirus case counts and positivity rates continue to climb in Contra Costa County, a Phase 3 reopening date for “non-essential” businesses remains out of sight while rents, mortgages, and bills pile up.

For some, working outside is better than not working at all, while others worry the guidelines are impractical, unsafe, and a disgrace to their profession. Many wonder why hairstylists, who spend 1600 hours of license training on stringent safety and sanitation protocols were forced to close when no known cases of virus transmission have been tracked between stylists and clients. 

“We’re out in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go, says Annie Aieta, owner of Rare Byrd Salon in Walnut Creek. “I’ve been a hairdresser my whole life; these are my clients, these are my people, how is doing their hair outside sanitary? Beyond that, hair color, which represents 99% of our business, cannot be done outside.”

 Stylists across the county are scrambling to find ways to safely continue offering services, even if it means skirting the rules. Some playing it safe by selling couture coloring kits and styling products, others doing house calls, or quietly inviting individual clients into locked and darkened salons. “People are doing what they have to do to get it done,” says veteran stylist and salon owner Caroline Wiseman of Caroline’s in Lafayette. “No one wants to let their hair go and everyone needs a way to make money,”

"When Newsom gave the green light for stylists and barbers to cut hair outdoors I was spinning,” Caroline says. “I didn’t understand how it could be real, how do we blow dry and cut hair outside in the summer heat? But after talking with our landlord and staff, we decided to stay active, take care of clients, and work outside in a parking lot with six chairs on a stretch of green turf.”

Other note that not all salons have access to outdoor spaces, and while permitting for outdoor dining has been fast-tracked in cities across the county, similar provisions and access to public space has not been put in place for the beauty sector.

“It makes absolutely no sense that I can watch people interacting in the streets, at restaurants and bars, eating and drinking without masks and not social distancing, but I can’t work on my clients in a clean safe place. Doing hair outside is simply not sanitary. It’s very demeaning to our industry and our clients,” says Annie.

Another local owner, who asked to remain unnamed, points out how dire the situation is, not just for stylists but for the survival of independent salons. “We and all salons are hurting, and many may end up closing their doors for good,” she says. “We have been here in Walnut Creek for 20 years and we will do whatever it takes to remain in business—but you can only lose so much business for so long.” To learn more, go to opensafecalifornia.com. 

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