Salons may reopen -- but with limited capacity
Ernesto Cabello, owner of Ernesto's Hair Salon, said the MUNI red carpet lanes have ruined his business. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Talk about a haircut with a view. 

Mayor London Breed announced today that personal services like massages, barbershops and salons can open outdoors starting Sept. 1, and outdoor gyms and studios will follow soon on Sept. 9. 

Those openings, however, may be delayed a few days, as opening requires an application process — and yes, permits.

Acknowledging how the personal-care industry has been shut down since mid-March, Breed said that outdoor service for businesses like salons may help. 

This has created a huge financial challenge for their owners and employees, and I am so glad that those businesses will soon be able to reopen,” said Breed. “We know it won’t be seamless to operate outdoors, but we stand ready to support.”

The city began translating the application process and reaching out to different businesses in preparation for the change.

To open outside, salons, massage studios and others must apply for a permit through the Shared Spaces Program, which gives out free, temporary outdoor permits to businesses as long as they can maintain a six-feet-wide gap between their operations and the sidewalk, and they are insured. According to the city’s site, permits can be used two days after applying. 

Owners and clients must both wear masks at all times, as well. 

“The whole point is, we don’t want to open these places and then see a spike and have to go backwards,” Breed said. “As more things open in San Francisco, the possibility of spread goes up.”

Studies suggest that the virus is less likely to spread outdoors or where there is increased ventilation, Health Department director Dr. Grant Colfax said. 

“Therefore, certain services can occur with less risk of spreading the virus,” he explained.

So, what would getting a haircut exactly be like?

Even the mayor admitted it might sound “crazy:” hair possibly blowing all over a customer’s face, the inability to properly color or wash. Still, this has been done in other counties, including Marin, Sonoma, and San Mateo, per the governor’s okay. 

Ivonne Garcia, an independently contracted hairstylist for Smoke & Mirrors on Sutter Street, questioned what would happen if there’s unpredictable weather. A few weeks ago, there was both a heatwave and thunderstorms. 

She said she’s unsure if her salon will reopen, given the location’s limited outdoor space and proximity to a bus stop. 

It’s definitely not ideal to what we’re used to giving our clients about the amount of service and the experience would be totally different,” she said. “But it’s hard and people will do it.”

Today, the city’s air quality has reached the red zone while Bay Area counties deal with brutal wildfires, meaning SF residents are encouraged to stay indoors with their windows closed. Not only does this directly contradict outdoor service for covid-19, but the potential smoke can possibly muddy the ambience of an outdoor manicure or massage. 

Still, as wildfires are slowly being contained, the mayor said the added smoke should eventually die down. 

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. I might be the only person in California who read the opinion piece in The NY Times today about openings and sacrifices.(

    It seems to me that California, and San Francisco especially, have again required that children and families sacrifice going back to school so other businesses can open.

    The fact that London Breed is allowing alternative learning pods and out-of-school activities to occur is besides the point for most families. These pods are inequitable and do not address the incredible deficits in academic learning and development our children are facing with continued school closures.

    We really need to band together as adults, and make some short-ish term sacrifices, so the children and families of this city can go back to school. Of course, then we would be more like other countries who are far more functional and community minded than we are.

    1. This is a proclamation by the city, but do you really believe people will be getting haircuts and nails done on the sidewalk? Aside from that premise, it’s naive to believe you cannot do both safely.