TWO STEPS FORWARD: Customer-starved businesses hopeful as Step 2 of reopening looms

But salons, barbershops and festivals face a long climb back

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Step 2 of reopening comes as a lifeline for industries that have been pummeled by lockdowns.

The relaxing of the rules at 12:01 a.m. on June 30 is getting the same kind of welcome businesses will have for their customers.

“Naturally people are very happy about this,” Dave Basi, chairperson of the Allied Beauty Association (ABA), said Thursday. “We have had professionals in the industry who have been closed for 250 days.”

He said his members still have a lot of questions about rules spelling out how many people can be in their shops.

“The messaging right now isn’t as clear and concise as perhaps it needs to be,” Basi said. “Some public health units in the province will talk about the number of people being five or the number of people being 15% of your capacity, or 25% of capacity.”

“There are disconnects in some instances on whether that’s five patrons or five people in total,” he added.

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Step 2 gives businesses like barber shops, hair salons, and nail salons a new hope.

“A lot of our association members lost their businesses, lost their livelihoods,” said Sean Gibson, of the Ontario Barbers’ Association. “People have actually closed up their shops.”

He explained that many of them could not access or did not qualify for government pandemic assistance.

“Devastating” is how Toronto barber Inskip Redman described the last 15 months.

“Next Wednesday means the end of uncertainty,” said Redman, who resorted to barbering outside on the roof of his shuttered shop a month ago to keep his business alive. “It also means re-opening my business again and starting from scratch.”

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Losing his staff to the underground haircut market is an added concern as he prepares to reopen.

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“I’m not sure who is going to be back to work in the shop,” Redman. “I may not have enough workers to cover the workload.”

Step Two is currently expected to last for three weeks.

“It’s a step in the right direction but for large-sized and even medium-sized festivals we are quite a ways off,” said Dave MacNeil, of Festival and Events Ontario.

Ontario has already met requirements for Step Three. But that will not happen just yet.

“One would think that when we reach the different parameters, we should be able to move into the different levels,” Basi said. “It’s been very, very challenging. Professionals across the province have not been able to generate a livelihood.”

slaurie@postmedia.com

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