PLEASANTON — Fed up with the state and county rules not allowing hair salons to re-open in Alameda County because of the coronavirus pandemic, some in the Tri-Valley region are taking matters into their own hands.
On Saturday, as many as 50 plus interested stylists and salon owners are coming together in Pleasanton to discuss a protest — in the form of opening up for at least one day to show that they can safely reopen and follow guidelines.
Christina Palmer, who owns Flaunt Hair Designs on Ray Street in Pleasanton, said she knows of “rogue salons” that have defied the rules and opened anyway. Although there’s a concern of possibly losing their licenses for reopening, they also know others have already done it without consequences.
“If the cities’ numbers aren’t high, let us work,” she said.
Although Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the state the green light to let hair salons and barbershops open for haircuts outside, Alameda County did not. Even if they were allowed to work outside, stylists say the idea is not practical. Without a sink to wash hair, hair would have to be cut dry and could fly away, and in the Dublin-Pleasanton-Livermore area in the middle of summer, temperatures of 100 degrees are common.
“There is no way to guarantee a sanitary environment,” said Renae Earl, a stylist who worked in Livermore and now Pleasanton. “There’s no way. Not with the wind, the dust, or pollen, cars driving by with their exhaust.”
Earl said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reopening outside warn of watching out for signs of heatstroke.
“It’s a very real problem. Say you have a full cape on, in a mask, outdoors in 90-plus degrees. How unsafe is that?” she said.
Instead, the stylists are advocating for a reopening with strict rules — such as one customer at a time, heavy cleanings in between customers and requiring masks. Earl says about 80% of her income comes from chemical treatments (ie: coloring hair and perms), which cannot be done outside.
The stylists also losing customers to nearby Contra Costa County salons, which are allowed to be open, at least outside.
“When you have Dublin literally across the street from San Ramon, how are they expecting people to not hop counties? How are they expecting the Tri-Valley to survive when clients can go across the street?” asked Lila Robinson, a manager at Bishops Cuts and Color in Pleasanton, and an organizer of Saturday’s meeting.
Earl said it’s been a struggle to keep things afloat. When the pandemic hit in March, she focused on going from a salon where she rented a chair in Livermore, to getting her own suite in Pleasanton. The suite, which has one hairstylist working solo in a private closed-off room in a larger complex, would be her saving grace, she thought. She figured she would invest in it, and it could be open by June.
But that wasn’t the case. Instead, she has been out of work for four months, with a brand-new suite ready to go, that she hasn’t been able to use. It’s been a struggle; people from her church have been dropping off boxes of food to help.
“It’s been a horrible rollercoaster ride, for sure,” she said. “It’s also been very humbling.”
But it does not appear the county plans to allow the salons to reopen, at least for now. Because of increases in cases and hospitalizations, Alameda County paused its reopening plan and is on the state’s monitoring list, health department spokesman Neetu Balram said. “We do not intend to open any new sectors at this time,” Balram said.
In June, the mayors of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore asked to be considered a sub-region for COVID-19 monitoring, separate from the rest of the county, because of their lower number of cases. It was hoped that they would not be subject to the same restrictions as the rest of the county, the letter said.
“Our business community will need to reopen in order to stay alive, and we will find it difficult to effectively enforce the more restrictive orders,” the mayors wrote in June.
But the county’s response was “no thank you,” said Dublin Mayor David Haubert.
Haubert said although he’s pro-business, the government needs to be protecting lives, not dollars. But, the stylists’ request would be valid if the county could “find, determine and identify a policy that would allow for the safe delivery of these services.”
“It should be achievable. It’s a valid request, especially if we don’t know how long it’s going on for,” he said.
Livermore Mayor John Marchand is asking for consistent leadership. He spoke of the confusion earlier this month when Alameda County was set to reopen for outdoor dining, and then late on a Friday, announced it couldn’t. Restaurants had already purchased food and hired back workers; Marchand said it could have been the end of those restaurants financially if they didn’t open that weekend.
“Unfortunately, we’re building this plane as we’re flying it,” he said in an interview.
He also noted that residents can cross the street in Dublin and be in Contra Costa County and receive services.
“I’m in favor of opening businesses, and making sure we do it safely,” Marchand said.
Saturday’s meeting will be outside of the Flaunt Hair Salon at noon; all Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore salon owners/stylists are welcome. For more information, go to their Facebook Page “Reopen ALL Tri-Valley Salons INDOORS“
East Bay hair stylists fed up with lack of work plan protest