By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
AFTER the initial COVID-19 lockdown forced them to close for three months earlier this year, some salon and barbershop owners fear they won’t be able to survive this new restrictive period.
On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a two- week minimum lockdown, which began last night, to slow the spread of COVID-19. This came as a blow to the cosmetology sector, which was only allowed to reopen under strict guidelines in mid-June after the industry had been closed since March.
Some businesses in the industry have seen up to a 75 percent decline in business, since many customers are out of work. Others have closed their businesses because of the crisis.
Ormonique Joffre, proprietor of Unique Hair and Nails, although experiencing difficulty like others in the industry, managed to keep her doors open after the first lockdown. She is concerned about the new lockdown and hopes that it does not go over the initial two weeks.
“Well, it’s going to affect us,” she said. “The thing about it is that you have your utility bills. You spend all of your funds on buying all of your products and all of that and then this happens. It’s like you are watching your savings just disappear.
“So it’s going to be hard and a little tight, but you know you just pray that they will say two weeks and it really is two weeks. Remember that last time it was a whole three months. That wasn’t easy because you still have to go to the food store and you still have to buy groceries so where are these funds coming from? And, it also does not stop the bills from coming. The light bill, the phone bill and all the other bills you have them in your hands and you are like, ‘What to do?’ I trust God will see us through.”
Trevor Johnson, owner of Johnson and Johnson Barber and Beauty Shop, has a grim outlook on his current situation. He, like Ms Joffre, managed to keep the doors to his grooming establishment open after the first lockdown, but he is struggling with expenses.
“Well the thing about it is that with our staff, they pay chair rental,” Mr Johnson explained. “So what we did is we already had to reduce the price of the chairs already. Since the lockdown, businesses with barbers and beauticians have declined at least 75 percent. We must remember there are a lot of people without jobs out there. So they are not thinking about grooming. The thing about it is that even though there is a shutdown, the light bill, the phone bill and the water bill is still coming. We have to struggle just to pay them. This will cause you to give up. This is killing our industry and our businesses.
“We can’t continue to survive like this. With everything, all these bills, backing up on everybody in this industry. Many have overhead bills that are killing them. This is a lot! Let’s see if it’s kept to two weeks.”
Both Ms Joffre and Mr Johnson were asked if the government had considered giving them the privilege of being open a few days a week, if that would appease them for the time being. They both agreed it would.
“We cannot be more careful than we are now in terms of COVID protocols,” Ms Joffre said. “We have removed some of our dryers just to make sure we manage one customer at a time. We have a strict mask policy. We sanitise this place continuously. We definitely can operate for a few days during lockdown. That would be much better than shutting us down completely.”
Mr Johnson, also in agreement said, “This would at least keep us going. There are some people out there who are still going to work. They need grooming so, yes, we would have loved to be included in the number for opening for a few days during the week. We all took the COVID courses online. So we have been practising all the sanitisation and social distancing. It would be great if they considered that.”
Hair salons and barbershops were allowed to resume business as of June 15, following certification by the Ministry of Health. This came after the industry, like many other sectors, were shut down in mid-March because of the pandemic.
People in the industry were required to attend an infection prevention and control course before returning to work – for which they will receive a certificate to display in their establishments.
On Sunday, Bliss Wax Boutique announced it would close for 14 days after an employee on sick leave tested positive for the virus. Customers who visited the western New Providence location during the exposure period were asked to self-isolate for two weeks or take a COVID-19 test.