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California hair stylists working underground amidst salon closures

California stylists working underground amidst salon closures
Posted at 10:59 AM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 14:01:54-04

There’s no word on when hair salons will reopen in California. Some cosmetologists and barbers say the forced closures have created an underground society of stylists, who have no choice but to work in secret.

Back alley haircuts and secret salon entrances-- it's what's become of the beauty business. In Texas, a Dallas salon owner was put in jail for reopening during the pandemic. That fear, plus the need to work has created a new kind of salon: one that's underground.

“They’re creative. Some are driving to homes, driveways, garages, a lot of office space that their husbands own, or working out of the office out of their homes; they have a spare room,” said Micheal D'Aversa, who owns and operates a salon in Long Beach, California.

D'Aversa’s salon has been open since 1991. He is no stranger to this business, once owning five salons in California and two in New York. He's now lost a third of his stylists and owes thousands of dollars in rent, and he’s now having to dip into his retirement to pay it.

“We can’t open, but we see all those businesses moving out of our salons that’s going to this underground business,” he said. “That’s happening right this moment.”

He says he's doing the right thing, abiding by the governor's directive to remain closed. His stylists are even getting special certificates from The Barbicide Company, which offers a COVID-19 course that includes a training and a test. The company tells us more than 360,000 professionals have taken the class. There's a COVID 19 overview and they discuss how to safely reopen, except D'Aversa can't do that.

“Every barber, stylists have no choice. They need to make the money, so they’re doing this right now because they have to,” he said. “And I understand that and they’re criminalizing these people for doing it. We want to work. How long is this going to last? We don’t know.”

We asked the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which oversees licensed cosmetologists in California, about the underground culture that's been created. They released the following statement:

"The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology is aware that some businesses are disregarding the Governor's stay at home order. While we are sympathetic to the ever-changing environment that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created for our licensees, our role is to ensure the health and safety of California consumers by promoting ethical standards and by enforcing the laws of the barbering and beauty industry. The Board acknowledges these unprecedented times and that our licensees want to go back to work. However, for the health and safety of not only the public but our licensees as well, the Board has been and continues to be in support of the Governor’s stay at home order."

But D'Aversa wants to know why some businesses were deemed essential and others weren’t.

“How did a pot dispensary become essential and a liquor store essential, but what we do is not essential? I understand close proximity, but that’s gonna be and we have to work with that and come up with a plan,” he said.

D'Aversa says his sanitary methods are launched and ready. Everyone has masks, everyone's in touch with their clients, he just needs the go ahead so he and his stylists can continue the business of beauty safely.