It’s been nearly two months since most Londoners could last get their hair cut, nails done or eyebrows shaped by a professional. Our city – like most around the world – is now one of unruly brows, grown-out acrylics, dodgy buzz cuts and wonky fringes.
If you’re one of the many people longing for a professional to sort out your dodgy home haircut, you probably found Boris Johnson’s TV address on Sunday May 10 interesting. In it, he suggested that hairdressers would be part of the third phase of reopenings. Counted as higher-risk businesses – because of the close proximity people need to be in to get treatments done – salons would follow the same guidelines as the hospitality industry and not open before Saturday July 4 at the earliest.
A 60-page document, ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, released this week, reveals more details about this stage of the plan. In it, the government writes that salons ‘should meet the Covid-19 Secure guidelines’. This means that venues should be large enough to allow social distancing measures and should provide suitable PPE for both staff and visitors. Ones that are unable to reach these standards may not be able to reopen.
The document also says: ‘In order to facilitate the fastest possible reopening of these types of higher-risk businesses and public places, the government will carefully phase and pilot reopenings to test their ability to adopt the new Covid-19 Secure guidelines. The government will also monitor carefully the effects of reopening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world, as this happens. The government will establish a series of task forces to work closely with stakeholders in these sectors to develop ways in which they can make these businesses and public places Covid-19 Secure.’
Countries the government will monitor will include France, Lithuania, Germany and Spain, where hairdressers have already opened their doors while following strict social-distancing measures including staff washing their work uniforms every day, salons operating at reduced capacity, everyone wearing masks, gowns and disposable gloves and hairdressers only cutting dry hair.
Not every salon will open as soon as July, though. Ken Picton, president of the British Hair Fellowship, says that reopening salons will take time. ‘Everyone’s thinking it’ll be a flick of a switch,’ he says. ‘The reality is, to turn a salon around in that time, is difficult with booking systems. And I don’t think there’ll be mass confidence in government guidelines. Responsible salons will take it into their own hands if they don’t think guidelines are good enough.’
Alexandra Brownsell, co-founder of London salon chain Bleach, adds that no matter the date the government suggests, she has no plans to open the salon until she’s sure they can do people’s hair safely. ‘I’ve seen some countries attempts at social distancing, like only seeing a few people a day and all wearing masks,’ she says. ‘But we wouldn’t be comfortable with that. We’ll be staying closed until it’s safe.’
Some beauty experts warn that there’s the possibility that some salons might never reopen. This is largely thanks to the way the government has developed its grant system based on businesses’ rateable value. Only those with a value of less than £51,000 are eligible. Because land is expensive in London it means that many salons in the city have a value higher than that, even if they’re a small business.
‘The biggest concern is that they won't reopen their doors,’ says Giorgia Rossi from beauty booking app Treatwell. ‘That they’re not going to be able to come back into business because of the amount of time they’ve gone without revenue. Or they’re going to open again and be out of business by September.’
After a different kind of flick? Find out when our city’s cinemas might be screening again.
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