Ed. note: Shortly after this story was published, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that hairdressers will, in fact, be permitted to offer services outdoors during the pandemic if they wear masks and observe other safety protocols.
On Monday, July 13, a little over a month after local hairstylists were given the green light to invite clients back to their chairs—albeit, with a boatload of restrictions and rules in place—Governor Gavin Newsom again mandated that salons shutter in several California counties, including Los Angeles.
Tress-obsessed Angelenos, relegated to the boxed-color aisle at their local CVS once more, bemoaned the move, although people were reportedly already becoming trepidatious about hitting the salon as COVID-19 cases spiked. “My clients are devastated,” says Sean James of Matthew Preece Salon in Santa Monica. “The salon was very busy for a week after the June reopening, then it went way down again when the virus started to resurge.” He says he’s lost 99 percent of his income this year.
Stylists across the city are feeling the hurt, and some are once again scrambling to find ways to safely continue offering services, even if picking up their shears means skirting the rules.
When beauty services were deemed non-essential during the initial pandemic shutdown in March, some local cutters and colorists figured out ways to continue servicing clients. Adam Pardyjak of B2V Salon played it safe by delivering couture coloring kits, while others offered house calls or quietly invited individual clients to their locked and darkened salons. Some stylists took their business outside, setting up shop in parking lots, at their clients homes, or in their own backyards.
“No one wants to let their hair go,” says one stylist who caters to celebrities. “[I’d] been going to their houses, working by the pool. They can’t afford to stop Instagramming and I can’t afford to stop working. With film fests and awards shows having no carpets, I’m losing about half my income.”
While the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 guidelines for salons and barbershops does’t address outdoor services, California code says all salon services have to take place inside a licensed facility. A trade group that represents stylists and barbers is lobbying the state to officially allow stylists to do business outdoors. “Our primary goal is to resume our salon businesses,” said an attorney representing stylists, who pointed out that restaurants have been permitted serve customers outside. “However, in the meantime, can we at least be treated with the same level [as] other non-essential industries?”
Public information officer Cheri Gyuro of the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology says the board is “working diligently to look deeply into this situation and is exploring options going forward,” but directed us to an official statement regarding the shutdown, which reiterates that all barbering, cosmetology, and electrology services be performed in a licensed establishment. “Therefore, establishments that are within the specified counties must close immediately and not offer any services (including any outdoor services),” it says.
Stylist Heidi Hart admits she continued to work after the first the first stay-at-home order was issued in March, taking house calls and working out of her home “to stay afloat financially and mentally.” She says she imagines other stylists will continue to get creative to generate income moving forward: “Considering that COVID-19 isn’t going away, I foresee many stylists, myself included, seeking other options outside of the salon from here on in.”
Veteran stylist Philip Carreon, who co-owns Ramos Carreon Salon in Fairfax, 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 closing their doors for good,” he says. “We have been here in Los Angeles for 30 years and we will do whatever it takes to remain in business—but you can only lose so much in business before you throw the towel in.”
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