Salons and barber shops across the Twin Cities began to reopen Monday with new procedures and limits on their customer capacity.
The shops have been closed for more than two months after the state imposed stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of COVID-19. With the restrictions, they were allowed to reopen on Monday, along with tattoo parlors, campgrounds and restaurants with outdoor seating.
For shops near the urban cores of Minneapolis and St. Paul, owners have had to weigh the safety challenges of reopening in light of the recent riots and vandalism of some businesses following the death of George Floyd in police custody last week.
"It is tough," said Javier Soliz, owner of VIP Cutz on Arcade Street in St. Paul's Payne-Phalen neighborhood. "I was thinking of not opening. … But how was I going to make money and save? We got to stay East Side strong. We got to stay Twin Cities strong."
Even some salons in the suburbs postponed reopening because of the unrest.
Soliz boarded up the windows of his shop Saturday and spray-painted messages to deter prospective vandals. He painted "R.I.P. George," a slogan in support of Black Lives Matter, and a note that children live in apartments above the shop.
Monday afternoon, Soliz's shop had a steady stream of clients, and he had to turn away walk-ins. The shop was at capacity with two customers, Soliz and another barber.
"Hey, you need a mask!" Soliz yelled to a scheduled client as he directed him to a box of masks and sanitizer by the door.
Boards will remain on VIP Cutz's windows as a precaution, Soliz said. Clients and barbers have to wear masks, and appointments that could have taken 30 minutes before will take a full hour to allow for staff to disinfect stations.
He renovated his shop last year and said the barber chairs were already well spaced and will comply with social distancing standards, plus he disinfects his barber chair and clippers after every customer.
Emilio Ortiz brought his 10-year-old son to the barber shop for a haircut before getting one for himself. He said that, as the owner of a construction business, he wanted to get a haircut to make sure he looked presentable and also to help out another small business.
"The way Javier does [his cleaning] I feel really comfortable," Ortiz said.
Salons and barber shops were told they would be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, and stylists and customers would need to wear masks.
However, the State Fire Marshal Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released additional guidance for salons in recent days on how to determine how many people they could have in their shops at one time.
For an existing salon, each person is allotted 100 square feet of space to calculate the occupant load of an entire space, and then 25% of that amount is the number of people able to be in the salon, not including employees. So for a 1,500-square-foot shop, the salon would only be able to have four customers at a time.
For salon owners like Brian Stevens, who owns 25 Great Clips salons in the Twin Cities, the rules on the occupant load mean he has to have fewer customers in his shops than he previously thought.
"We already had people scheduled," Stevens said. "It was too late for me to go back and say, 'No.' "
Stevens said 23 of his 25 shops were planning to open Monday, and most of his employees were coming back to work this week.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495