small businesses

Salon Owners Anxious to Reopen Safely

NBC 7 Responds spoke with salon owners about the frustration for many in the beauty industry

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Many San Diegans are missing their stylist or barber as the stay-at-home order nears the end of its second month. While some businesses are starting to reopen, there is still no clear end in sight for salon owners.

"Unlike coffee shops and other places, there's no way for a salon to adapt," said Mike Anderson who owns Salvage Salon in North Park. "It's really not a one-size-fits-all solution for salons. We're all so different."

Right now, beauty parlors and salons are near the bottom of the list as California begins to lift some business restrictions. While salons have been closed for a month and a half, many stylists were only allowed to apply for unemployment assistance two weeks ago because of their employment status.

"Many salons don't actually have employees," said Anderson. "A lot of people are independent contractors and we were just automatically disqualified from city funding."

Most stylists rent a chair at a salon. While the Andersons are not charging for the unused space, a recent survey of thousands of workers in the beauty industry found almost half of them have not received any bill deferments.

"We love these people, we care about them," said Anderson. "We're not going to force anyone to pay when they're not getting assistance."

There are 25 people who work at Salvage Salon. The Andersons hope they can come back to work again, but know the salon will look different.

"Coming back we're going to be working at half capacity, possibly a quarter capacity," said Salvage Salon's Jessica Anderson. "We can't social distance."

The Andersons say it is impossible for a hairstylist to social distance from their client. The state board has not released any guidance for salons yet, but did say if anyone is found working they could lose their license.

The same survey found 45 percent of workers in the beauty industry have dependents and 16 percent cannot pay any of their bills. That's why more than 15,000 people have signed a petition urging government leaders to help support the beauty industry.

Other stylists have threatened to sue the state of California, arguing they should be allowed to reopen sooner.

"The hope would be sometime within a year we could be semi-normal again," said Mike Anderson.

The Andersons say their customers want them to reopen, but it will take time and guidance to make sure it is safe for everyone.

"Half of licensing as a stylist and as a salon is infection protection," said Mike Anderson. "It's not just masks and gloves and gowns but we'd need partitions and a certain type of spacing."

The Andersons have five daughters and the family is being helped out by friends and their church. There is also a GoFundMe page that has raised thousands of dollars to help with operating costs. The couple says right now it is more heartbreaking than frustrating.

"How do businesses just come back and have the money to do that?" asked Mike Anderson. "When we come back to work, we've all got pretty big holes to climb out of."

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