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Group of lawmakers, hairstylists urge SC governor to allow barbershops and salons to reopen

Updated: Apr. 27, 2020 at 7:09 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Amy Howie started an online petition in mid-April.

A few weeks later, her petition had more than half a million signatures. Howie is a hairstylist and owns Papillon Salon in North Myrtle Beach. She is also a hair loss specialist.

She started the petition to get the hair industry recognized as an essential business in South Carolina.

Close-contact businesses like barbershops and hair salons were closed in South Carolina in March because of coronavirus concerns. They haven't been able to open since.

"Everyone's hurting at this time. It's not just our industry," Howie said.

According to Howie, hairstylists in South Carolina are trained and licensed in sanitation and disinfection procedures. She believes salons and barbershops should be allowed to open as long as they follow preventive measures to protect clients and staff, like require everyone to wear a mask.

"One client per stylist and no more than 'x' amount of people per square footage in the building. I think it's very doable," she said.

Monday morning, a group of lawmakers, along with hairstylists from across the state, took a similar petition to the governor’s office. Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, said if retail stores are allowed to be open, salons should be allowed to open as well.

"We're going to leave the big box chain stores wide open. You can stand in a line with 20-30 people in those places. But you can't get your hair done or your nails done. It makes no sense," he said.

That petition had more than 46,000 signatures from hairstylists and customers in South Carolina. Sari Powell is the owner of Studio Meraki in Irmo.

“I just feel that we should have a choice. We should reopen and we should do it now,” she said.

Some other salon owners WIS spoke with in South Carolina said at a close-contact business like a hair salon, it is difficult to practice social distancing. Laura Hurst owns Extreme Hair Salon in Aiken County.

"We cannot follow the proper guidelines that are in place. It's just impossible," she said.

Even though these owners said they are struggling financially right now, they don’t want to risk anyone’s health by opening up too soon in their opinion.

Claire Thomas is the owner of Mōda Salon in West Columbia.

“I understand when you’re in a position of not having an income and you’re having to pay overhead -- panic sets in,” she said.

Many owners said they were not able to secure loans from the Payroll Protection Program during the first go-round. They hope they’ll have better luck in the near future to get some money to pay their staff.

Howie said waiting any longer to open up these businesses could mean many of these salons and barbershops will never be able to open up again.

“Everyone’s job is essential if it helps meet the financial needs of their families,” she said.

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