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N.H. Hair Stylists Petition Gov. Sununu To Reopen Salons

Aaron Yoo via Flickr Creative Commons

Some New Hampshire hair stylists are petitioning Gov. Chris Sununu to allow them to reopen and see one client at a time.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced closed businesses not deemed “essential” in New Hampshire, including hair salons, barber shops and other cosmetology shops.

That led Vanessa Perron, owner of Vanessa’s Salon in West Lebanon, to come up with what she sees as a compromise: a partial reopening of salons and barber shops.

Her online petition now has more than 2,500 signatures, though she’s also heard from stylists who are adamantly against the idea. 

Perron said she understands why beauty shops aren’t deemed essential, but she is deeply concerned about the economy.

“If I had to pick, if money is my issue, then my hair would probably have to go,” she said. “But people still want their hair done and we still have to work. We have to earn a living, too.”

Perron wants the state to allow salons to open for no more than ten people at a time. Stylists would work six feet from each other, taking only one client at a time, and they’d have to wear masks and sanitize in between every appointment. 

Perron admits that it's impossible to be six feet away from someone - as suggested by CDC guidelines - while cutting his or her hair, so she suggests making sure to work from the side or back of a client, and talking to clients from behind the chair. This pitch also runs counter to CDC guidelines that suggest staying home as much as possible and putting distance between yourself and other people, as some people without symptoms may still be able to spread the virus.

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Perron has been frustrated with the stay-at-home order since it began in March, as she felt she and her staff had things handled. Perron considers hair salons “one of the most regulated [businesses] for sanitation” and said she and the other stylists at her salon were “going above and beyond” for two weeks before the order began. They wore masks, sanitized between clients, wiped down every surface, stylists decided if they wanted to work, and they didn’t force clients to keep appointments. 

“Even some of my 98 year old ladies were still coming in, and not because they were being naive, they were like ‘I’m just not afraid.’” Perron said. “So I was like okay, that works for me.”

But for now, like everyone else, her shop is closed, with stylists going on five weeks or more without pay, and only selling shampoos and other retail products whenever Perron happens to be in the salon.

In a statement, a spokesman for Sununu said the governor is working “with all stakeholders to formulate a potential plan as to how hair salons or barbers, along with other industries, could open in a phased approach in a safe and responsible manner in the coming weeks and months.  As with all matters, public health must come first.”

The governor is scheduled to hear suggestions from barbers and cosmetologists during a reopening task force meeting Tuesday.

Lauren is a Senior Reporter/Producer for NHPR's narrative news unit, Document.

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