Athens businesses Republic Salon, Pain & Wonder Tattoo and Body Piercing, and Pedal Driven Cycles have chosen to keep their storefronts closed. Nails So Dep! Salon has chosen to have a soft opening this weekend.
Gov. Kemp announced a plan on April 20 for some businesses to reopen on Friday, and restaurants to reopen on Monday. This order suspends all local orders, which means the Athens order for non-essential businesses to remain closed no longer applies. Businesses that Kemp allowed to open on Friday include gyms, hair salons, nail salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have continued to increase in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, and are now at 22,491. Cases in Athens are increasing at a daily rate of 4%, according to data from The New York Times. There are currently 127 cases in Clarke County, according to the DPH. On April 21, the ACC Mayor and Commission passed a resolution encouraging residents to continue to shelter in place.
Roberta Carrier, owner of Republic Salon, said her business will not be opening this weekend. After asking all 17 of her employees, not one wanted to go back to work and risk bringing home the virus to their families, she said.
The Georgia Board of Cosmetology and Barbers issued guidelines for safely reopening salons and spas, according to a news release. These guidelines include maintaining social distancing, asking health screening questions and wearing personal protective equipment. Carrier said the fact that these guidelines have come out means that it is too early to open places where people can’t stay 6 feet apart.
“They want us to wear protective equipment. That needs to go to health care workers. They also want us to ask health questions. That’s not our job as hairstylists to ask people health questions,” Carrier said.
Carrier also said that she felt there is “no way” to social distance while cutting people’s hair. Even if stylists work split shifts and maintain distance from each other, stylists are still in the faces of their clients while working on their hair, she said.
Republic Salon will not reopen until cases continue to drop for a two-week period. Carrier said she thinks her decision to not reopen will make the community safer. Their business continues to sell retail products shipped from a distributor.
Nails So Dep! Salon has decided to have a soft opening this weekend, according to the owner, Long Viet Hoang. A soft opening typically admits a limited number of people in order to test the business’ services. He said in a Facebook message that Nails So Dep! is following the instruction of the government because there are many professionals working together in the government, and those professionals know what they’re doing.
According to a Facebook post by Nails So Dep!, the salon plans to follow state health guidelines by maintaining 6 feet between workstations, limiting the number of people in the salon, increasing sanitation routines and having workers wear gloves and masks at all times. This post also said that Nails So Dep! will not serve clients with symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, slowness of breath and dry cough.
Pain & Wonder Tattoo & Body Piercing is another business that has decided to not open its doors this weekend. Owner Bethrah Szumski said that she doesn’t think it’s safe to open her tattoo parlor at this time, as the artists would not be able to maintain a safe distance from their clients. With no specific governmental health guidelines for tattoo parlors, Szumski said she was not ready to reopen her business.
“Four days’ notice wasn’t exactly enough time to have that ready when we had been told that we were definitely on a shutdown until the 30,” Szumski said.
Right now, the artists at Pain & Wonder are furloughed, Szumski said. She said she’s been experiencing technical issues while trying to apply for the small business government loans, like the Paycheck Protection Program and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. She said when she submits her application, she gets a confirmation email, and then is told that the application isn’t complete. Szumski has had no luck in getting the applications to go through.
Pain & Wonder plans to have a soft opening once there is a decline in cases, said Szumski. Once they do open, they plan to engage in health safety measures such as wearing protective gear, requiring appointments and checking temperatures.
Pedal Driven Cycles is also choosing to keep its storefront closed, though owner David Harrison said he is still supporting the business online. He is continuing to ship his custom bike frames around the country, but in Athens, he is leaving the products outside the store for customers to pick up after they pay online, he said.
Harrison plans to keep his storefront closed because he’s choosing to follow the suggestion of the ACC Mayor and Commission, which suggested on April 21 that Athens residents continue to shelter in place, and the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who suggests reopening only when there are “steadily decreasing infections.” Harrison said he doesn’t want to risk getting his family or customers sick by reopening his storefront.
However, Harrison said he has allowed one person at a time inside his shop to see what he offers. He makes sure these people wash their hands and sanitize appropriately.
“I think that this [coronavirus] basically makes people go a different route to get stuff. I still have the ability to offer all the services I have to the community. We just gotta be a little crafty and a little safer about doing it,” Harrison said.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Bethrah Szumski's last name was misspelled. The Red & Black regrets this error, and it has since been fixed.