As Toronto approaches four months of strict pandemic measures that have kept hair salons shuttered, health officials in the city say they aren’t ruling out allowing haircuts and other such services to resume outdoors.
Toronto’s top doctor, Eileen de Villa, said this week that while the focus so far has been on outdoor dining and fitness, health officials are open to considering other activities that could take place outside.
The city is currently in the “Grey-Lockdown” zone of Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic plan, which allows some retailers to open with limits but only permits restaurants to do takeout and delivery orders.
Local health officials have asked the province to loosen some of the restrictions on outdoor activities.
Ontario’s top doctor was asked this afternoon if the province would allow for outdoor haircuts.
Dr. David Williams says there have been discussions with the medical officers of health for both regions.
“We are asking ourselves and having discussed it with them, what can we do to work with them and work with the citizens of Toronto and Peel,” said Williams.
“These [Toronto and Peel] are areas of Ontario that have the highest population density and we have our highest rates in cases, so we want to have that ongoing consultation with them.”
Some Toronto salon owners say that though they’re eager to get back to work, doing so outdoors poses several logistical challenges.
They note the lack of outdoor space at many salons, particularly in the city’s downtown, as well as the absence of electricity and water, which are required to wash and blow-dry hair.
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What’s more, they say stylists and their clients would be at the mercy of the weather.
“I’m happy to get to work on anything right now but I don’t see that as being a really smooth process unless we have sunny, calm, bright days every day, and they allow salons to spread out on the sidewalk or even onto the (street) parking,” said Tyler Moore, owner of Parlour Salon, which has three locations across the city.
Even then, the number of stylists able to work in that space would be limited, as would the type of services they could offer, Moore said.
“You can’t wash their hair because they can’t go in to get it washed, so it’s just haircuts,” he said.
Dat Tran, who owns Album Hair in Toronto’s east and west ends, said it’s likely only a small percentage of salons would be able to move their operations outdoors.
“The majority of people downtown don’t have the space,” Tran said.
Aside from the possible discomfort of wind or rain, the weather also poses technical challenges when it comes to working on hair, he said.
“You can’t control the temperature when it comes to colour. Colour has to be room temperature or it doesn’t process really well. I don’t think a lot of people understand that aspect of it,” he said.
A better solution to help struggling salons would be to designate hairstylists as frontline workers so they could be prioritized for vaccination, Tran said.
The Premier commented on recent recommendations brought forward by Toronto and Peel’s top doctors, saying he always leans in favour of letting people do more activities outside but that he will “listen to the science and data” before making a decision.
It’s expected the province will announce its decision on the city’s request on Friday.