Many of San Diego’s small businesses have shifted operations outdoors this month but, for some local salons, the move outside just isn’t making the cut.
About five dozen hairstylists gathered near San Diego City Hall in downtown San Diego Monday afternoon for a peaceful, socially distanced protest calling for county public health officials to allow salons to provide services indoors again.
Supporters held colorful signs with slogans like "We Know Disinfection, Let Us Open Safely" and chanted "Masks on, open salons." When vehicles passing by honked in support, cheers erupted through the crowd.
The protest was organized by San Diego-based hairstylist Zoie Rose, who told NBC 7 stylists just want to be allowed to work inside again.
Rose, who has been vocal on social media about the challenges faced by hairstylists under the current pandemic restrictions, said salons are safe and the industry prides itself on sanitation.
"The majority of what we use to clean in our salons on a daily basis is an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant. We understand how to keep our salons clean and we have done that since the beginning of time," Rose said. "We are upheld to the highest standard, more than any other industry besides medical and health industries."
Cutting hair outside makes those sanitation standards difficult to maintain.
Rose said that if hairstylists aren’t allowed to work inside, they should at least be given the option of applying for unemployment or some sort of aid or support. The first closure of salons, which started in mid-March, hit many hairstylists hard.
"For the most part, everyone had to kind of sit and wait for the two-and-a-half-three months and hope they wouldn't have to close their doors," Rose said.
But San Diego’s salons were among the businesses ordered to shutdown indoor services earlier this month as part of a second wave of pandemic-related rollbacks.
Last week, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an executive order that would allow more businesses to move their operations outdoors without having to obtain a permit. This order applied to salons and barbershops, pending regulatory clearance from the state.
Many salon owners said moving their businesses outside would not work, including Austin Campbell, managing partner of Sola Salons.
“It’s not realistic to be working outside in the beauty industry,” Campbell told NBC 7 last week. “It’s summer and (it’s) hot outside. The majority of our beauty professionalS do use chemicals, aka hair color, in order to make a living and work on their clients, and outside in the heat completely changes the way hair color processes.”
Campbell also noted that shampoo bowls would not be able to be moved outside and extension cords for power supplies would present a hazard. The wind could also impact haircuts, he said, and moving outside could mean liability insurance for some salons may no longer be valid.
Campbell told NBC 7 he and other local salon owners were working to petition the state and county to let salons continue to operate indoors.
Meanwhile, some other hairstylists like the crew at Tailored Hair are finding ways to make the outdoor salon restrictions work -- although it's far from easy.