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Hair, nail salons all on hiatus statewide

Many of workers ineligible for aid by Jeannie Roberts | March 26, 2020 at 3:55 a.m.

Barbershops, beauty salons, nail salons, massage therapy studios and tattoo parlors in the state shut their doors at noon Wednesday to comply with a state Department of Health order to close as the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus continues to rise.

But most of the businesses had already been experiencing a loss of business weeks before the edict made it official, shop owners said.

"We went from 80-100 a day to numbers as low as the teens and then even lower," said Cyndi Weston of Cabot, who manages numerous Great Clips hair salons across the state. "Our busiest salon did over a 100 clients a day and nearly double that on weekend days."

Weston said employees, who are paid an hourly wage, were told to apply for unemployment benefits.

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"We told them to spend time with their families," she said. "Take this time to do all the things with them that we were too busy to do before. We told them call us if they needed anything at all."

The Great Clips workforce will be back after the coronavirus is contained, she said.

Although the company-owned salons pay their employees by the hour, that is not typical of the small salon owners.

Most of the salons rent out booth space, and the individual stylists claim themselves as independent contractors, which requires them to file an Internal Revenue Service form 1099-MISC.

Unemployment benefits are not typically available to independent contractors, since unemployment taxes are not paid by companies or individuals for whom the independent contractor performs work. State law, specifically Arkansas Code 11-10-507, says unemployment benefits are for "wages for insured work."

"I'm checking on unemployment, but our receptionists and stylists are considered self-employed," said Barbara Jones, owner of Riley Brooke's Day Spa and Salon in Stuttgart. "We're worried about getting the bills paid and all that comes along with owning a home like mortgage, lights, gas, phone, insurance, plus all the extra necessities like health and life insurance."

Hannah Williams, a hairstylist at Stilo Salon in Little Rock, said losing income from her average 30 clients per week will be devastating to her family -- which includes husband Noah Williams and their 3-month-old son, Saul.

"It's going to affect my family a lot. My income makes up a lot of what our family survives on," Hannah Williams said. "It also affects my salon. If my co-workers can't pay their booth rent, how is our owner supposed to pay the building's rent? It's definitely a trickle-down effect for everyone."

And in case anyone thinks about simply visiting a hairstylist at home, state law requires that that location be licensed.

Tim Kelley, owner of Primal Urge Tattoos in Conway, said the shutdown has affected him greatly.

"I do have some cushion since I am well-established, and both me and my wife work; however, at some point, soon, it will become an issue since I do have to still pay rent on my building along with utilities and the strain of no income," Kelley said. "I fortunately have no staff. I am basically appointment only and handle all of my own scheduling."

Candi West, owner of Salon West in Conway, said that two weeks ago the shop had a "devastating amount" of cancellations.

"It has brought my world to a halt," said West, who has four other hairstylists who rent booths in her salon. "I have zero income, but the rent and utilities continue unfazed by covid-19."

Even though pet grooming salons were not forced to close by the Health Department, some groomers say their business has slowed, and they're feeling the pinch.

"I don't have employees, but I've advised my other groomer friends to stay calm and keep their money for necessities. The bills can wait," said Cassie Martin, owner of The Paw Spa in Vilonia.

Martin posted a sign on her door telling pet owners to stay in their vehicles until she comes out to get the animal.

"I made the decision to close before the governor closed salons," she said. "I have asthma and a young daughter. I don't want to leave her without a mother."

Dr. Laura Rothfeldt, the department's public-health veterinarian, has been advising pet grooming salon operators to consider their own health and that of their clients when deciding how and when to conduct business.

"For the most part, pet grooming can and probably should wait until the risk is lower. However, for some pet owners, grooming is essential for preventing allergic conditions," said Danyelle McNeill, spokeswoman for the Health Department.

There is no data yet that pets can be infected or get sick with the virus that causes covid-19, McNeill added.

The government should step up and offer more assistance to an industry that ground to a halt Wednesday, some of the personal service shop owners said.

"They should suspend the lease on my business," West said.

"I wish they could offer some sort of reimbursement for loss of revenue to help with the ongoing bills since we were forced to close," Kelley said. "I still have to pay rent and utilities for my building even though I am not making any revenue. I also wish they could offer us some sort of unemployment benefits to help with personal expenses."

Jones said the state should have considered allowing the service salons to stay open, but limit the clients to one at a time.

"My salon paid my bills, so I just need help to keep my head above the water," she said.

Williams said she wished the shutdown had been done all at once for all industries.

"I just wish they would quit piecing it out a little here and there," she said. "Do it all at one time so everyone can go back to their normal life."

As for advice to clients who will be without hair care until the coronavirus has subsided?

"Don't cut your own bangs!" Weston said. "We will be back, and we will be stronger than ever. Come back and see us, and we will make you all beautiful again."

Metro on 03/26/2020

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