Hair salon COVID times

A masked-up client at Bliss Hair Studio gets her hair done on the first day the salon re-opened following a statewide stay-at-home order.

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Some of the first businesses to re-open in many counties are salons and hairdressers, but some salons are taking different routes as new precautions change the way business is run.

While salons are opening their doors for the first time in weeks, things aren't totally back to normal. And since personal care workers like hairdressers and tattoo artists can't stay six feet apart from their customers, they're screening customers for symptoms, using face masks, and keeping work stations far apart.

Bliss Hair Studio in downtown Bozeman is off to a strong start, as their first day back in business quickly booked up. It's a major weight off hairdressers' backs, since Bliss was losing at least $10,000 every week they were closed. They closed their doors on March 27, meaning they lost one full month of revenue.

While they're grateful to bring in income again, Bliss hairdressers are still taking extra precautions. The salon is asking clients to wait in their cars before appointments, checking staff temperatures every morning, washing capes between clients, and cleaning up before and after every visit.

Things are a little more complicated for salons, too, since they're independent. Until just a few days ago, employees couldn't file for unemployment and the salon couldn't apply for disaster relief.

Bliss owner Kara Ecker says that even with support from the community, the only option to stay in business was to open immediately.

"Hairdressers are self-employed, independent contractors," she explains. "So, most hairdressers have received zero money, you know?...You have single moms, you have people who are the income earners for their family."

But not every salon is so quick to open. Just a block away, Theory Hair Salon is taking a phased approach of its own.

Starting this Thursday, Theory's three co-owners will start taking appointments. Next week, they'll start putting other stylists into the rotation.

Through it all, they're cutting back on capacity, with never more than five stylists and five customers in the salon at a time. They've also added plexiglass barriers between hair washing stations.

The owners say that - for them and their business - this is the best path forward.

Co-owner Brittney Murphy explains: "We felt we wanted to get in and get our systems in place first to make sure we know we're doing to protect our staff and protect our clients and just safely reopen."

These salons all fall under the "nonessential" businesses that are opening on Monday for phase one of Governor Steve Bullock's reopening plan.

On May 4, restaurants and bars can enter the first phase with their own strict social distancing guidelines.

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