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Social distancing be damned. Michigan nail salons and barbers still open

Jacob Lund

March 21 update: Whitmer orders hair salons, barbers, spas, tattoo parlors closed

Social distancing isn’t easy at barber shops, beauty and nail salons. Getting up-close and personal comes with the territory, but they remain open despite fears over the coronavirus.

Although these days, business is so bad that some owners wonder why they are.

Early Wednesday afternoon, for instance, only one customer had come into Naturally Beautiful Nappy Hair Salon in Detroit. A normal day would have brought in 10 by the same time, said owner Sophia Pokuaah.

"It's really bad. Nobody's coming in," she said, adding that she may close the salon on Thursday because of lack of business.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday ordered the closure of all barber shops and nail salons. They’re still open in Michigan, confusing workers and customers alike (and proving a popular question to Bridge’s email help line.)

"Salons have not been given anything" in the way of safety guidelines, said Pokuaah said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer temporarily closed Michigan theaters, libraries, fitness clubs and limited restaurants and coffee shops to drive-thru and carryout service earlier this week. 

Asked Wednesday why barber shops, nail salons and such weren't included in the closure, Gov. Whitmer’s spokeswoman Tiffany Brown pointed to an earlier press release that noted such businesses were still allowed to operate. 

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Whitmer’s order also allows funeral homes and golf courses to remain open.

At the Gaslight Barber Shop in Grand Rapids, owner Elwyn Griewahn said he'd received three COVID-19 safety notices from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

But the recommendations, including those issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were not aimed specifically at barber shops and beauty salons. 

Griewahn said he is making an extra effort to clean.

"It's kind of what I've been doing, only more of it," he said. Business was off at his shop, where Griewahn is the sole barber. 

"Last week I was busy. I had a good week," he said. "This week has been slow."

At Snipz, a barber and beauty shop in Redford Township, owner Patty Lindsay said she is taking “just the standard procedures” such as extra cleaning to stay safe.

Lindsay is doing extra cleaning at Snipz, and has told her stylists they can limit customers to appointments-only rather than grooming walk-ins.

So far, she said, none of the five stylists has taken her up on that. The stylists haven’t been wearing gloves while cutting hair. 

"It's kind of hard to do that,” Lindsay said.

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