Opinion | GTA’s post-pandemic barbershop, salon industry should be considered ‘essential’ – Toronto Star

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By Dwight Murray

Mon., Nov. 1, 20212 min. read

Dwight Murray is owner and founder of Toronto-based Miami Fades.

Being a Barbershop in Toronto and with six locations in neighbouring areas, Miami Fades has had to adapt and reinvent our operation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, not unlike a lot of other businesses.

At Miami Fades, we used a minimal and clinical approach to support a healthier and safer environment for our customers and staff. We removed all bars, waiting areas, front desks, product shelves, and all esthetic surfaces to minimize risk and maximize safety.

We also implemented a contactless system of operating, which not only reduced health risk but also allowed our customers to book and pay with ease. Customers now require a reservation and a completed pre-screening online form upon receiving confirmation for any services at Miami Fades.

Our tool system replaced the old workstations with commercial-grade magnetic wall bars and small stainless-steel shelves. In addition, we installed surgical steel sterilization stations at each location and extended the service durations to one hour for our barbers to follow clinical standard sterilization procedures after each reservation.

We also enhanced our air purification system and have a more frequent filter change contract. We equipped our staff with personal protective equipment such as fluid resistance lab coats, face masks/shields and gloves.

According to the Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are considered essential if “services and functions are considered essential to preserving life, health and basic societal functioning.”

It is important to note this includes mental health services as well. A haircut, a shave, or just the experience of being listened to and groomed by a professional barber is essential for communities. However, a larger population of Canadians suffered tremendously from mental health issues and as an industry we noticed how important a role we play in restoring and recovery of someone’s mental health.

In the event of another lockdown and a resurgent fourth wave of COVID-19, many barbershops like Miami Fades, if not considered essential businesses, will be forced to incur heavy losses, or even close down permanently. Not only that, we foresee a future where the employees/contractors will be forced to offer services to customers outside of a licensed barbershop business, away from the supervision and regulation of the health and safety guidelines, also known as the black-market barber operation.

The barbershop and salon industries were badly impacted by the pandemic, and the resumption of normal practices still seems like a distant dream. The black-market barbers are only getting more active and the risk and spread of COVID-19 will continue to increase if this issue is not addressed.

It is important that Ontario Public Health create a regulation for giving authorization to barbershops and salon establishments an essential business pass. It should be a requirement for businesses to pass the health and safety standards to operate as an essential business. We also suggest putting stronger rules in place to restrict barbers working in the black market to protect the customers.

As we move towards an uncertain future, we need to formulate policies that protect the mental health of the public and the financial health of the myriad of institutions that make the country what it is today.

Dwight Murray is owner and founder of Toronto-based Miami Fades.