SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Several salon owners across Santa Barbara County—and California at large—plan to defy the current state health order and reopen their salons indoors beginning Monday.
The current health order only allows salons to operate outdoors, with additional safety requirements. Those salons, however, can only offer haircuts and cannot provide services such as hair coloring or shampooing, which generally make up a significant portion of their business.
Along with that financial hit and the added expenses to move salon operations outdoors, salon owners also feel that working inside provides a safer environment for customers.
Many local businesses have moved outside where COVID-19 is less likely to spread. Salon owners point out, however, that they were already highly trained in keeping their facilities clean before the pandemic began.
“It’s absolutely safer for our customers and ourselves to work inside,” local salon owner Sheila Gibilisco said. “Outside you have the heat, you have the wind… You can’t disinfect all that area. Inside we can control that.”
Eleni Tziouvaras, who owns E Salon in Goleta, does not yet know if she will go against the health order and reopen indoors. She says, however, that the state allowing salons to operate outdoors felt more like the industry being thrown “a bone” rather than being taken seriously.
Generally, the California Board of Cosmetology and Barbering does not allow outdoor salon operations due to sanitation concerns.
“We just don’t feel safe outside,” she said. “We’re better inside because we can control everything. We wipe everything down. We take temperatures. Everybody has to wear a mask at all times. This is what we do.
“I feel like we’re being treated like criminals at this point, because I just don’t think we’re being treated fairly. We’re licensed professionals.”
Tziouvaras says the outdoor space in front of her salon is not adequate enough, even if she wanted to move outside. Her salon was able to survive the first shutdown with the help of an emergency loan, but she says she does not want to go through the same process again—which would require draining more money from her savings.
That being said, she also knows reopening indoors against state guidelines puts her at risk for a fine, and that she must also consult her employees in the decision.
The Professional Beauty Federation of California does not officially endorse defying the state order to reopen indoors, but it will stand behind salons that do so.
“We are willing to support and defend legally any salon that has put in the COVID compliance stepped up safety protocols,” said Fred Jones, legal counsel for PBFC.
Jones added that salons must also prove that reopening indoors is their only viable option to remain in business.
“Our salons are much safer than most of the so-called ‘essential businesses’ that have not been shut down,” he said. “Each of our licensed professionals have hundreds of hours of training in cross-contamination, disinfection and sanitation protocols.
“We really believe the governor is ignorant about our level of training and expertise.”
Salons were able to open indoor operations for about six weeks during the late spring and into this summer before California saw coronavirus cases spike across the state, including in Santa Barbara County. That rise in active cases and hospitalizations led state health officials to roll back re-openings and shut down indoor salon operations.