New state guidelines allow counties to dictate when salons can reopen

Beginning Monday, some Bay Area salons and barbershops will be able to take business indoors.

But that’s not true of all of those businesses, even when they have the same state COVID-19 color ranking.

Under the state’s new system, both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties are purple.

Yet, in one of those county’s, beginning Monday, it will be much more difficult for salon owners to make some green.

Outside Insignia Hair Salon in Walnut Creek Saturday afternoon, Stylists were trimming the locks of loyal customers who have waited months for a professional cut.

“I was just letting it go. It got really, really, really long and I honestly can't remember the last time I got a haircut,” said a client named Louisa.

The salon is one of hundreds in Contra Costa County that have been allowed to operate strictly outdoors, surviving on revenue from haircuts.

Business was complicated further recently by mother nature, with temperatures climbing into triple digits, and poor air quality.

“Then we started to have fires so the smoke was really bad, we still had to work a little bit because demand was high and people really wanted to come in,” said owner Regina Muslinova.

Starting Monday, salons and barber shops in the county can move business indoors, at a limited capacity, which allows for more revenue generating options like hair coloring, but still falls short of moving a business from surviving to thriving.

“It's not enough. It's not enough to break even, you know. I have to make less payments on my rent, which, you know, is nice with my landlord.”

“I think it's frustrating at the least and unfair for sure,” said Dion Hock’s commenting on the salon situation in his county of Alameda.

Just 18 miles from Insignia, his salon in Pleasanton is closed.

Although salons in the county can operate outdoors, indoors remains off limits, for now.

Hock’s place is inside a massive health club, with plenty of space indoors, but no room outside.

So, his business remains shut, and Hock says struggling salons in his county may lose more business to their neighbors in Contra Costa County.

“Our long-term clients may feel the desperation to have to go there and get their services, color and things you can't do at these outdoor locations in Alameda are really going to make our county suffer tremendously.”

The state has designated the counties where both businesses are located as purple.

Yet, Hock says he thinks there’s something beyond health standing in the way of 
Alameda county loosening it’s guidelines for salons.

“I think they're more worried about how it looks politically, to be honest with you, than it does economically to us that really want to get back working.”

There is no evidence Alameda or any other county is making decisions based on politics. Health officials say it’s all based on data.

And regardless of the state guidelines, counties still have the option to be more stringent if they think it’s necessary.