San Antonio’s barbers and hair stylists reopened their shops Friday to a waiting list of customers eager for a trim of their lockdown locks.

“This is a historic day,” said Alfred Saldana, of JB’s Barbershop in Alamo Heights.

“It’s been a month [since my last haircut],” said customer David Boatman. “I haven’t left home much.”

At Tower Plaza Hair Styles, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff was one of the first customers in the chair Friday morning for owner and operator Dora Garcia.

Ever since a March 23 local stay-at-home order temporarily shuttered hair salons, barbershops, and tanning salons to stem the spread of the coronavirus, things have been tough, said Abram Sanchez, owner of Abe’s Barbershop at 307 N. Main St.

“But it’s going to pick up,” Sanchez said, confident that the business he purchased from 92-year-old Willie Cedillo in 2018 will get busy again.

During the Christmas holidays, Sanchez’s business had really picked up, he said, “and it was just starting to get good and then this happened.”

Abram Sanchez cuts the hair of Jeret Gutierrez at his downtown business, Abe’s Barber Shop Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

One of his first of 12 customers on Friday hadn’t seen a hair clipper in two months, and another needed Sanchez to fix a home haircut. “It was a little patchy looking,” he said.

The reopening of personal care businesses came with health protocols from the Texas Department of State Health Services designed to protect both salon workers and customers. Checklists include actions such as screening employees for illness, limiting the kinds of services offered, and booking appointments to allow for social distancing.

The checklists recommend customers wear a face mask, maintain 6 feet of separation from others, and wash hands before entering the shop and after paying.

San Antonio’s Economic Transition Team also released its own guidelines for businesses. The panel made up of local business leaders is asking companies to agree to seven practices, including maintaining distance and using hand sanitizer.

At Abe’s Barbershop, there’s a sign on the door asking clients to wait outside until time for their appointment. He has hand sanitizer available and disinfects his station between clients.

Of all the nonessential businesses ordered to close to stop the progression of COVID-19, the closure of hair salons and barbershops seem to have inspired the most public clamor. On Tuesday, two Republican state lawmakers violated the state’s shutdown order by visiting salons for a haircut, saying the restrictions were hurting the Texas economy.  

Hours later, Gov. Greg Abbott gave the go-ahead for barber shops, nail parlors, hair salons, tanning businesses, and swimming pools to reopen at 25 percent capacity on Friday.

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On Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court released a Dallas salon owner jailed for violating state orders by keeping her salon open during the shutdown after both Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton pressed for her release.

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At a meeting in the Oval Office Thursday, President Donald Trump praised the governor’s efforts at reopening businesses in the state, while Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said she recommended that the state wait to reopen barber shops and salons.

David Boatman checks his new haircut with a hand mirror at JB’s Barbershop in Alamo Heights. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Sanchez is just glad he can open his doors.

“This past Tuesday, when they said [we could open] May 8, I was happy about that,” he said. “Because I need to open up already and start working and making some money.”

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is a journalist and writer in San Antonio, and a business reporter for The Rivard Report.