SAN FRANCISCO - Bay Area hair salon owners have begun organizing in their fight to be allowed to re-open indoors.
They say they feel they can operate safely indoors, but they've been ignored constantly by health officials and political leaders.
United Grooming Parlor For the People near Jack London Square in Oakland has been closed since March because of the pandemic.
Owner Julie Nichols gets emotional when she talks about the financial hardships.
"My clients have donated money. They have pre-paid for haircuts," she says.
Nichols says she has made her shop "COVID safe" with plexiglass barriers and an air filtration system. But she is still prohibited from re-opening.
"A thousand hours of our training we learned how to do safety and sanitation. That's the main part of our license. It is not whether we are good at cutting hair. It is whether we are safe and sanitary," Nichols says.
Nichols was one of dozens of hair salon owners from across the Bay Area who joined in a protest outside San Francisco City Hall.
They came in hopes health officials will hear them when they say they can operate indoors safely and should be allowed to reopen.
"We have been abandoned as an industry and no one has been listening to us," San Francisco stylist Rachel Stefanik.
Outdoor haircuts are permitted in some counties, including Contra Costa, with certain safety restrictions. But under orders from Governor Gavin Newsom, indoor hair cuts are not allowed in counties on California's COVID-19 watch list, which now encompasses the entire Bay Area.
But certain space restrictions make outdoor haircutting a non-starter. The fight is for indoor service.
"It's a lot safer than being on an airplane," says Nichols.
"To be within six feet of someone for more than 15 minutes, we consider that a very close contact. Someone who is at high risk of getting infected if one person is infected," says Dr. John Swartzberg of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.
But he says, in one case where two hair salon workers were infected, they and their customers wore masks and no one else came down with COVID-19. "It's an issue that can be argued both ways," he says.
"Either open us inside and let us run our businesses properly. Or give us some financial assistance," says Stefanik.
Another protest is scheduled Saturday by salon owners in Pleasanton.
Salon owners also plan to rally at the state capitol next week.