San Diegans eager to get much-needed grooming services will now be able to do so in San Diego County — but only if barbershop and hair salon owners follow strict safety guidelines.
Just last week, Governor Gavin Newsom gave the green light for some counties to take the lead on reopening barbershops and hair salons that shuttered on March 18 as a result of COVID-19. San Diego County was among those approved.
Hair salons and barbershops must comply with all California Division of Occupational Safety and Health standards, which include physical distancing, the use of face coverings and other personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing, among other protocols.
While most beauty shop owners are taking additional measures to make sure their staff members and clients are safe and protected, many are just happy to be back in business again.
Keri Davis-Duffy, president of Gila Rut Aveda Salons, has taken an extremely conservative approach to the reopening of her three locations in San Diego (Hillcrest, Chula Vista and Del Mar) on May 29. This includes having clients sign waivers to confirm neither they nor anyone they live with have COVID-19 symptoms, to implementing a new touchless greeting that includes a hand over the heart and a bow.
“We have taken an approach probably above and beyond any precautions that are in the guidelines to make sure our clients feel safe, and staff feels safe and we have a safe community,” said Davis-Duffy, who started her business in 1992 and had a revenue of nearly $5 million in 2019. “We are occupying only 50% of our stations and we have assembled two teams of people that we have split up so they don’t work together. We’ve also extended our hours, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., so we are able to offer our staff a 38-hour work week.”
Additionally, Davis-Duffy said she will be conducting temperature readings for both staff and clients. If that comes back at 99 degrees or more, that guest’s appointment will be rescheduled. Beauty professionals will use disposable capes on clients and minimal talking will be enforced, she said.
There will be no shampooing for the time being, Davis-Duffy added, except for when clients come in for a dye job, in which case the salon employee will be required to wear a face shield. The front desk greeter will now work through plexiglass, she said, and a pre-entry station has been set up outside to collect waivers and provide clients with masks and gloves if needed.
Lastly, staff members won’t be allowed to eat in the backroom, said Davis-Duffy.
“We are asking them to buy coolers and thermoses to keep in their cars in the meantime,” she said, adding that, just weeks ago, she didn’t feel ready to reopen as COVID-19 cases were still on the rise.
“A lot of people were pushing so much earlier on for San Diego to reopen. I’m such a conservative person, I trusted the decision our governor was making. Weeks ago, I wasn’t ready to reopen. But I am ready now. And, because I am conservative in nature, my staff feels certain and secure in my decision.”
Deena Von Yokes, owner of Studio Savvy Salon in Rancho Santa Fe, was a bit more skeptical. In fact, she was one of the numerous salon owners in California that filed a lawsuit against Governor Newsom in early May for classifying the industry as non-essential.
“Not sure if it’s commonly known that when one goes to beauty school, we are trained in 1,600 hours of sterilization and sanitation,” said Von Yokes, who founded her business in 1993 and has 10 employees. “I know for a fact there’s not one employee in a grocery store who trained in the degree we were at cosmetology school.
“All across the board, when you can go buy weed in the store,” she said, “but have to get your hair done in the dark alley. It (was) just so unsettling.”
Von Yokes opened her salons back up on May 29. And, aside from following all standard safety guidelines, Von Yokes said she has removed all magazines from her shop and the front desk operation.
Excluded from PPP
Austin Campbell, owner of 15 San Diego area Sola Salon Studios, said he definitely took a hit as a result of the closures.
He said he stopped collecting payment from the independent beauty professionals that rented salon space at his locations. They turned to unemployment. But, because Sola is not a passive business owned by developers or landlords, he couldn’t apply for the PPP loan.
Now that Governor Newsom has announced the reopening of salons via phase 3, Campbell, whose locations opened on May 29, is ecstatic to get back to business as “usual”. He is implementing all the sanitation recommendations provide by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health departments, he said, as well as additional precautions.
“Prior to reopening, my locations (underwent) a deep cleaning to sanitize and disinfect all common areas and individual studios,” said Campbell, who has approximately 550 beauty professionals throughout his 15 locations. “My locations will be cleaned daily by a professional cleaning company using CDC recommended protocols and EPA-registered household disinfectants, as well as a midday tidy with special attention paid to frequently touched surfaces.”
Campbell has also removed all common area seating to help prevent congregation of groups and is requiring all beauty professionals to take their laundry home to prevent any traffic in the breakroom and laundry area. Additionally, he is asking them to become Barbicide certified, a sanitation and disinfectant brand in the beauty industry, and hang their certifications in the studio; stagger appointments and leave 10-15 minutes in between to clean and sanitize; have clients wait in cars until the hair stylist has readied the area for them; maintain a 1:1 ratio at all times; wear masks; and use the SolaGenius app for a contactless pay option.
“As part of the precautions we are taking moving forward, our doors will remain locked at all times and our beauty professionals are not accepting walk-ins until further notice,” Campbell said.
These measures may seem extreme, he said. But, for now, they are a necessary evil.