In a down-to-the-wire policy reversal, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday afternoon that hair salons and barbershops will not reopen as initially planned with other Phase 1 businesses on May 20 after widespread concerns about safety for both stylists and customers. The decision was made jointly with Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, and declares that the businesses will remain closed until “early June.”
“We’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from many owners and employees, and at this time I think the best approach is that we hit pause on the reopening of hair salons and barbershops, take a step back, and allow some more time as preparations continue to be made,” Lamont said in a press release about the sudden change.
The news comes just two days before Connecticut salons’ proposed reopen date, and was announced the same day the Facebook Group CT Stylists for Late Stage Openings planned to protest at the State Capitol about the May 20 reopening.
The reversal might cause a bit of whiplash for stylists in Wilton, many of whom have spent the past week devoting significant time and money readying their shops to reopen, and going above and beyond state requirements to ensure their safety despite their hesitations in opening.
Stylist and owner of Love + Light Studio Jocelyn Furtado wrote in a message to GOOD Morning Wilton that, “the governor made a great decision today to support us and give us more time to prepare.”
“As far as the reversal is concerned, I feel a little bit more at ease. I now feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I have a little bit more time to obtain all the supplies I will need to open back up: sanitizing agents, cleaning products, additional masks, etc.” she wrote. “Also, I will be able to protect myself a bit more by continuing to quarantine at home.”
However, Furtado said the decision doesn’t come without downfalls. After enthusiastically booking clients for the reopening, she had to cancel all appointments with little to no notice. Additionally, she said that after filing and being approved for Unemployment Assistance, she has yet to receive any money, making financial concerns “very real” for her and her family. On top of this, because of the uncertainty about when things will fully open up, she is “apprehensive to rebook” clients for fear of being forced to cancel again.
Salon owner Philip DiMarino of Philip Salon & Spa feels once again discouraged and dismayed by what he says is the state’s lack of clear direction, especially so close to the planned reopening date.
“That whole up-in-the-air thing to a small business is just flat out wrong,” DiMarino said. “It’s not wrong that they’re taking precautions. It’s wrong that they’re making these decisions of telling us when we can open and then all of a sudden, last-minute [changing it].”
As a business owner, he said, it’s not easy to pivot so fast and so often.
“It’s not just about just sticking your scissors up and cutting someone’s hair. There’s a lot more to it. There’s a lot more prep work going on,” he said, adding, “for example, how do you schedule somebody if you don’t know what is going to change in June… [and] with the regulations that change day by day?”
DiMarino will feel more comfortable reopening when nail salons and indoor seating for restaurants reopen as well, as hair salons align much more closely with those environments than with the other Phase 1 business sectors–even if staying closed longer means losing business for now.
While Furtado waits for the new reopen date, she will be doing free, weekly deliveries for clients who purchase at-home color kits from her, and offering virtual consultations for potential new clients.
Lamont ended his daily press briefing on Monday by saying that he hears everyone’s concerns, and hopes this decision has ultimately helped salons better prepare for a safe and successful reopening in June.
“They’ll be some protests back and forth on both sides of this debate. This [Monday] evening there may be a group called Hair Our Voice and these are barbers and salon folk that said maybe we are going just a little too fast. And we did hear your voice on this,” he said. “Look, from a public health point of view we felt very confident that what we were doing would not jeopardize your health and, just as importantly, not jeopardize the health of the greater community. But people need a little bit of time and we gave them some time to take care of some things that would help them feel even safer.”