Since DC, Maryland, and Virginia announced the closure of all non-essential businesses in March, nail and hair salons haven’t been permitted to see customers.
That may soon change for some area salons: While there has been no announcement as to when DC could begin its Phase One reopening, Northern Virginia is planning to begin reopening May 28 and Governor Larry Hogan will announce plans for Maryland’s reopening today at 5 p.m. With the conversation turning to relaxed restrictions, local businesses are planning how they can operate and make a profit while keeping customers safe.
This is an especially pressing issue in an environment like a salon. It’s basically impossible to keep the CDC-recommended six feet of distance when coloring someone’s hair or painting their nails. Without a vaccine, there’s an inherent risk for both the customer and the stylist.
Still, people are anxious to come in for a refresh, says Maria Elizabeth, who owns Salon DeZen in Alexandria. “People are very excited to get their hair done,” says Elizabeth. “It just gives them a sense of stability and control in their life.”
Elizabeth plans to reopen the salon May 28 when restrictions lift in Northern Virginia, and she’s organizing an exhaustive list of precautions to ensure her staff and clients stay as healthy as possible.
Walk-ins will not be accepted, and clients will have to sign a waiver, have their temperature taken, and be wearing a mask to enter, says Elizabeth. Stylists won’t be able to double-book clients for appointments, and the salon will reduce capacity and have plexiglass dividers between stations. Employees will have to wear face shields while working, says Elizabeth, and clients will wear disposable capes that will be tossed after each appointment.
Additionally, Salon DeZen will extend service hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Stylists will work in three shifts throughout the day to ensure the salon can see the maximum amount of clients while still keeping numbers low.
This level of precaution and protection is typically associated with a hospital, not a salon, which could be a jarring development for customers who usually see beauty treatments as a means of escape. Elizabeth knows this, which is why she’s working with a local artist to make the plexiglass dividers as pleasing as possible and is asking stylists to amp up the verbal friendliness when wearing masks. “We’re changing up the environment so people can escape, but safely,” she says.
Erin Derosa, who owns the salon Sense in Park View, is also beginning to outline the precautions her business will take when it reopens: reduced capacity, masks on employees and clients, temperature checks, contactless payments, no more magazines on the tables, and no more waiting in the lobby until your appointment.
Derosa doesn’t have any idea when she’ll be able to resume business in DC. She knows when restrictions are lifted, she’ll have to take precautions no matter what, but she also wants to make sure she’s not opening prematurely—even if it’s allowed. “It seems kind of crazy that hair salons would open in Phase One if we have to wear face shields,” she says. “We’re not doctors.”
She would ideally like to ensure that her employees and clients could access tests if necessary before reopening, she says, and that the PPE purchased for the salon wouldn’t detract from crucial medical supply pools.
But she also knows that the business needs to begin operating soon and making a profit. “Absolutely everyone understands the risk involved and the public health crisis,” says Derosa of her employees, “but also it hurts to not have a single drop of income.”
Lauren Dunne agrees. The owner of Varnish Lane says its three DC locations have taken a huge profit hit since temporarily closing in March, despite online product and gift card sales.
While Vanish Lane was founded on the promise of a more sanitary experience via waterless manicures and pedicures, Dunne says they will up the ante once they reopen. Think plexiglass dividers, masks for customers and employees, contactless payment, and temperature checks.
Is Dunne worried that her client base may not want to return to a nail salon during a pandemic that doesn’t have a cure? Not really, she says—people still want to get their nails done, even in a global crisis.
“We are getting emails, DMs—we have people booking for later in the summer,” says Dunne. “I think people are ready.”