AUSTIN, Texas — While restaurants, retailers, movie theaters, and malls in Texas can reopen May 1 with limited capacity, Gov. Greg Abbott said he is holding off on other businesses for health and safety reasons. In a news conference Monday announcing the steps to reopen the Texas economy, Abbott said he would like to open up hair salons, barbershops, bars, and gyms as soon as possible, but they will remain closed for now.
- Restaurants, retailers, movie theaters, and malls can reopen Friday
- Hair salons, barbershops, bars, and gyms have to wait
- Some might wait longer to reopen voluntarily
“We're not just going to open up and hope for the best. Instead, we will put measures in place that will help businesses open, while also containing the virus,” Abbott said.
The owners of Method Hair salon have been operating in Austin for almost 13 years. They moved to their new location on East 4th Street in January and closed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to cancel 3,134 appointments, averaging about $117 per ticket, so it's had a major impact on our business,” Sarah Statham, owner, said.
Abbott said the state’s stay-at-home order will expire as scheduled on Thursday to allow the option for businesses to let customers through their doors. Under the first phase restaurants, retailers, movie theaters, and malls will be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity. Museums and libraries can also follow suit but interactive exhibits with hands-on areas have to stay closed. Whether a business reopens is optional and up to individual business leaders.
“My feelings are kind of a mixed bag. I would definitely always play it on the side of safe. We, as cosmetologist and barbers here at Method Hair, put our community first and safety first. So, we wouldn't want to start before we have the proper things aligned. Of course we want to get back to business, but as a community we can’t take a risk,” Statham said.
Abbott said the second phase of businesses reopening could come as early as May 18, as long as there is not a surge of COVID-19 cases. Under the second phase, businesses could up their inside occupancy from 25 to 50 percent. When it came to opening up hair salons and barbershops, Abbot said his medical team had advised against it for now, but he hopes they can open in mid-May.
“The goal is just to find safe ways in which people can work in close contact with customers while preventing the spread of COVID-19. We think we have some potential solutions. Let us continue to work on it, but we want continued input and best practices and strategies from all of those salons,” Abbott said.
Statham told Spectrum News she wants state leaders to use this time to provide definitive guidance to salons, especially since she is concerned most of her stylists do not have health insurance, because of historically higher premiums in the industry. She also had lots of questions about liability considering her business-interruption insurance claims did not go through under the pandemic.
“My concern is that we won't have the backing of any insurance companies and we may be found liable for the spread. If we're not liable, who is?” Statham said.
For now, Statham said she is waiting to hear back about several small business loan applications. In an effort to minimize the financial loss on her staff of 17, she said they expanded their website to offer online gift card purchases and started selling products they usually offer in-store online. Statham said 100 percent of the gift cards purchase go to the stylists.
“Even if it goes on another three weeks without help we’ll eke by. This is temporary. We are very fortunate, too, to be in a line of work that people are wanting and looking forward to. I feel like when the time is right, we'll recoup a lot of that,” Statham said.