Under the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” a four-tier color-coded system that California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled on Aug. 28, some non-essential indoor businesses will be able to open again, including restaurants and most beauty services.
This system, which labels and tracks COVID-19 risk by county, comes 10 days after Open Safe California began, a protest movement for salons to open their doors for indoor services in partnership with the Professional Beauty Federation of California. Later in the day on Aug. 28, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health said that they will need to review these new guidelines before anything in the county changes, but this is a hopeful announcement for businesses.
“We have to open,” says Ted Gibson, hair stylist to the stars and co-owner of STARRING by Ted Gibson, which he shares with partner Jason Backe. Following July 20 state guidance, some beauty salons opened with outdoor service only, but most were unable to due to lack of available, safe, clean space. All beauty businesses, most of which are small and independent, have been struggling since the first COVID-19-prompted shutdown in March.
Gibson and Backe — whose clients include Jaime King and Kaitlyn Dever — were among dozens of salon owners who participated in the movement. “We’re not going to see any red carpets anytime soon,” says Gibson. “There’s no rent relief for salons. The beauty business is minority and women run. As leaders in the beauty business, we decided to become the salon that spoke up for other small business around the country.”
The businesses partaking in the protest opened on Aug. 17, complying with the most recent guidelines for safe, indoor beauty services. This includes mandatory mask wearing, reduced capacity, extra sanitation, with some salons even doing temperature checks. Salons that joined the movement include Pomp Salon in Stockton, Robert Torosian in North Hollywood and Barber Society LA, a barbershop in Gardena and online professional resource.
“This movement very organically sprouted out of the ground,” says Lu Garcia Reynoso, founder and CEO of Barber Society. “It’s very much an act of defiance; we’re licensed professionals, we’re trained and regulated by the state, we want to work closely with our state board to continue to keep our communities and our clients safe, but we’re not being acknowledged at all.”
“We are certified in safety and sanitation protocols, it’s the first thing we learn in beauty school,” Backe stresses, as does the Open Safe California website: “Establishments where [beauty] services are provided are licensed and regulated through the State of California and have followed strict guidelines enforced by the Board Of Barbering and Cosmetology to ensure public safety and prevent the spread of disease, even prior to COVID-19.”
A July 27 data collection through Bassett Salon Solutions states that the infection rate of salons in California is .00002986 percent. Out of 7,341 stylists and 535,810 clients serviced, there have only been sixteen possible COVID-19 infections, though they are not confirmed to be directly connected to salon exposure.
The movement was not limited to the physical opening of salons — a number of peaceful, in person protests were held across other locations in California. Eric Taylor, owner of Salon Republic, organized an Aug. 24 protest at Beverly Gardens Park, his second in the L.A. area, which saw a turnout of about two dozen, including Reynoso. “The feeling that we get when we’re out there is people support us, people want our shops and salons to open,” she says. “We’re a big labor force in California and our services are definitely needed.”
STARRING client King visited the salon on its first day of reopening, and wrote on Instagram, in support of owners Gibson and Backe: “By opening up the salon yesterday, Ted and Jason stood in solidarity with many of the 53,000 State Board of Barbering & Cosmetology licensed establishments who have implemented COVID-compliant safety protocols and are choosing to make customer & employee safety a priority.”
In the first week of Open Safe California, some officials from the city and the state board stopped by a number of salons, and some salons have been shutdown again by county officials.
Salons that are hopeful to reopen soon and preparing to do so include Cristophe Schatteman’s 30-year-old Beverly Hills studio Cristophe Salon.
The one caveat to the new system is that — should COVID-19 cases rise again — these businesses will once again be forced to close their doors.
5:02 P.M. Updated with announcement from Los Angeles Department of Public Health.
5:11 P.M. Updated with information on some salons have been shut down by Los Angeles County officials.