Hairdressers feeling cut off as state of emergency extended
Stylists in Ottawa worry clients will flood across river to Gatineau
Hairdressers in Ottawa say the province's decision to extend the state of emergency could cost them their livelihoods, especially as salons across the river in Gatineau, Que., reopen for business.
Ontario's state of emergency was originally scheduled to end June 9, but has now been extended until the end of the month, prolonging restrictions on personal care businesses and restaurants.
Centretown hairdresser Lucas Nault had just moved his business and merged with another salon when COVID-19 derailed his plans.
"My livelihood, my business, everything [is in peril], to be honest," Nault said. "I'll be lucky if I can make it to the end of the summer."
Nault said government relief programs aren't enough to keep his business afloat if he doesn't know when he'll be able to reopen.
He founded the Ontario Salon & Spa Owner and Stylist Collective to press the province to let hairdressers choose when to return to work.
"We've got people that feel that with [personal protective equipment] and with proper government guidance that we can reopen ... but we also have people on the other side that don't feel safe to reopen and aren't ready," Nault said.
"I want everybody to have a choice rather than be forced."
Stephanie Boucher of Stephanotis Hair said she's already ordered protective equipment.
"We've been ready for about a month now," she said.
Quebec salons open
Adding to the strain, Nault and Boucher said, is the fact customers could choose to cross the Ottawa River to go to Gatineau for a trim, dye job or cut.
Mark Kaluski, chair of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA), said other businesses including nail salons and massage parlours have also been affected by Quebec's speedier reopening schedule.
"Right across the river, their restrictions are much less severe. A lot of retailers and services are seeing the money just walk across the bridge over to Gatineau. There's a sense of unfairness through all this," Kaluski said.
Both Gatineau's mayor and the Quebec minister responsible for the region have urged Ottawa residents not to cross the river for such services.
Kaluski said public health measures must take priority, but business owners and their employees are feeling the stress of not being able to earn a living as their bills continue to pile up.
He supports allowing businesses in eastern Ontario to reopen ahead of other parts of the province because it appears the spread of COVID-19 in the region has slowed.
"We have to reopen safely. I understand the problems these businesses are going through," Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday.
The province has posted safety guidelines on its website for personal care providers such as barbers and hairdressers.
with files from Amanda Pfeffer