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'The government needs to allow us to work,' says local salon owner

'We are ready to be safe, as we have been from day one,' says Connect Hair Studio owner who is participating in Ford Fails Beauty campaign

On Friday, the province heads into step one of a three-step reopening plan. But that doesn't change anything for those in the personal care industry.

As a result, some local hair salons continued their peaceful protest on Wednesday.

For the last three weeks, Sharon Smith of the Connect Hair Studio has been promoting the Red Balloon Wednesdays protest at her Burton Avenue shop.

Smith and others in the personal service industry in the city, have tried to draw awareness to the cause by tying red balloons outside their business.

“This is our way of drawing attention to the fact that we as an industry are being left out,” said Smith. “I’ve been getting so many calls from customers looking to book for Friday and I have to tell them we’re not allowed to open.

"I can’t tell you how many people have asked me, ‘Why not?’ I agree with them. Premier Doug Ford, why not?”

Having been open just six weeks this year, the Ford Fails Beauty campaign was designed by the Allied Beauty Association to raise awareness of the personal service industry which has been forced to close more than any other sector throughout the pandemic.

Salons, barbers, spas, studios and their clients are being asked to place a red balloon outside their businesses and, virtually, on their websites to highlight the plight of the personal service sector.  

“I have spent thousands of dollars on PPE and dividers, we have log books, stringent cleaning and yet, Friday doesn’t belong to us,” said Smith. “I’m even picking up the RAPID tests from the Barrie Chamber of Commerce so I can test my staff. We are ready to be safe, as we have been from day one.”

According to Job Bank Canada, a guide to businesses on the Government of Canada website, hairstyling is one of 23 regulated trades in Ontario with around 35,000 licensed professionals.

Approximately one-third of the licensed professionals work in the Toronto region where salons have now been closed for over 12 months.

No data has been provided to support closing salons, barber shops and spas because of the spread of the virus, Smith notes.

“The other downside to us not opening is that the underground market thrives. I can tell who has had a haircut and who hasn’t,” said Smith. “It would have been great to see Mr. Ford with longer hair to show solidarity with our industry.”

Like other hair salon owners, Smith is trying to survive on curbside pick up for in-house products.

“But really, how much do a few shampoo bottles help with rent and other expenses I’m still paying,” said Smith. “I know that beauty supply outlets are booming, so that tells you all you need to know about the underground market. Let us open up and continue to be safe and help everyone feel better about heading out to a reopening.”

Next to Connect Hair Studios at the 274 Hurst Dr. plaza is the Lovely Nails Spa, owned by April Hoegy, who told BarrieToday she is frustrated at not being able to open, saying she provides an essential service.

“I get calls from people who are in pain from ingrown toenails, cracked feet, all sorts of health issues. They are health issues because some of these people are in extreme pain and can’t wait for the doctor’s appointments they book,” said Hoegy. “They could come here and be done and in better condition.”

Hoegy said with many of her clients being servers at restaurants that will open on Friday, she will continue to pressure the government and hopes to push hard enough to get the personal service industry open next week.

“Some of my clients need their nails done, feet done so they can walk around in comfort,” said Hoegy. “The government needs to allow us to work.”