When will Chicago hair salons reopen and what will it be like to get a haircut?

Local salon workers are ready to get back to work—masks and all.

hair salon, salon, shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock/Jacob Lund

Put down the scissors and step away from the at-home dye kit. Chicago salons could reopen in Phase 3 of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's five-step plan to ease out of the statewide "stay-at-home" order.

Starting no sooner than the end of May and dependent on how effectively the city can curve the spread, Phase 3 will "cautiously reopen" the city, allowing some appointment-only services to resume. It's worth noting that Chicago is currently in Phase 2 of the plan, dubbed "stay-at-home."

Still, with the tentative date looming just weeks away, salon and barbershop owners across the city are preparing for the possibility that they could reopen sooner rather than later. At Bronzeville Barber Salon, owner Andre Love says that he's in a good place to reopen when the city gives him the go-ahead: He already has a reservation system in place to control the number of people in his shop and his professional training has equipped him with advanced knowledge of cleanliness and sanitation. He already wears personal protective equipment when working on clients.

The one thing he's still trying to wrap his head around is how he'll maintain social-distancing guidelines in his small, eight-seat shop. "If I was to downsize, I might have to give up three stations to follow social distancing. That's the biggest thing," Love says.

At Logan Square's Logan Parlor, owner Jamie DiGrazia has come to terms with concessions her business will have to make to safely reopen. Several chairs have already been removed to create more distance between stations, capacity will be limited to no more than 10 people, double booking (working with two customers at once, i.e. cutting one person's hair while another's dye sets) will be a thing of the past, and services like beard grooming or eyebrow waxing won't be offered. To help make up for the dip in income that's likely to come with limited capacity and services, DiGrazia will ask her staff to be transparent with customers about how purchasing shampoo and styling products at the salon can help it stay afloat.

"It's going to be more—and I hate to say this—more stuffy and sterile, because that’s not what I wanted for Logan Parlor when I opened it," DiGrazia explained, addressing the changes she's making. "We don’t want to take away the experience of what we do as service providers. Sure, we’re giving a haircut, but we’re also connecting with our guests and we still are going to be able to do that, we’ll just be masked and extra clean."

Sine Qua Non owner Laura Boton says she's been busy prepping her three salons for reopening, which has included ordering personal protective equipment and training her staff on client flow.

Boton paints a vivid picture of what her three salons will look like when she's given the green light to reopen. Customers will have to wait outside until their stylist is ready, at which point they'll receive a text to enter. Before sitting down for a cut or color, they'll have their temperature taken, sign a waiver and put on masks and gloves. Each stylist's area will be flanked by dividers and sanitation stations so that equipment can be easily sterilized between guests.

Boton says she's had to cut her staff in half, as every other chair will need to be kept empty to maintain social-distancing guidelines. With half the staff comes a reduced number of daily appointments, slashing the salon's overall income. 

"As a salon business owner for 27 years, I worry about our ability to maintain enough of a profit margin in this post-COVID world," Boton says. "As an employee-based business, we are operating at a very low margin. Having to cut staff and clients in half is a huge financial hit."

Despite all of the challenges that she knows that her businesses will face in the coming months, Boton is excited to get back to work.

"We are ready, Chicago! I hope our government sees us as the professionals we are," she says. "We go to school and get licensed and trained in sanitation. Hair salons are an essential business and should be allowed to open as long as we follow safety and sanitation practices."

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