Despite an increase in coronavirus cases, Gov. Greg Abbott suddenly and surprisingly gave the OK for nail salons, hair salons, and barbershops in Texas to reopen on May 8.
This comes just one week after restaurants, movie theaters, and malls reopened on May 1, and it took salon operators completely by surprise.
Not only does it not follow his initial outline — that the reopening of Texas would come in measured phases — it contradicts his April 27 decree that the earliest reopening date for salons and spas would be mid-May.
"Just about all of us in the industry were completely shocked by this update and many of us, including myself, are not prepared to open our doors so quickly," says Emily Haygood, owner of The Lash Lady, an eyelash extension salon in Fort Worth. "Given the abrupt nature of this change, I will not be opening my doors until the week of May 18 at the earliest. This will give me time to come up with a plan to reopen as well as put new policies into place designed to protect my health and the health of my clients."
Champions Nail Bar co-owner Rose Thai said that they were also waiting until May 18, stating that the news came as a total surprise.
"We initially got a little excited and wanted to open right away but we're just not ready — our staff is not ready and we're not sure how it will work," she says. "The governor didn't even give guidance on capacity."
"After thoroughly discussing the reopening date with our staff, we pushed the date back to May 18," Thai says. "The technicians are the most essential part of our salon, so if they are uncomfortable about working then we are uncomfortable about opening. This will also give us time to review and get familiar with all safety protocols so we can provide a safe environment."
Details on Abbott's new ruling were limited. There can be only one stylist per person. Customers are recommended to wait outside if they can't observe the six foot social distancing rule. And both stylists and customers are also recommended to wear face masks.
Some salons like Novak Hair Salon in downtown Fort Worth and Rocket Science Hair Salon in East Dallas are reopening on May 8, doing their best to piece together some kind of policy.
"Welcome to our New Normal," Rocket Science says in a Facebook post, with a list of rules that includes no blowouts, a warning that not all stylists will be available, and reminders that customers must come solo, must wear a mask, and must wait in the car until they get the high sign from their stylist.
Some salons like Verbena Parlor in Dallas are waiting indefinitely, despite the conflict it presents between wanting to tend to customers and employee needs, yet address safety.
"Obviously, I want to open and need to open but after much painstaking deliberation, I have decided we will continue to stay closed," says Verbena owner Ashley Murphree-Tran in a post. "If you’ve been to Verbena and know me personally, you know that we do things right."
Meanwhile, in the midst of this turmoil, Abbott is defending Shelley Luther, owner of a salon in Dallas (of course) who made herself a martyr after opening in defiance of the order to close.
Luther was sent to jail for a week, spurring Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue a letter calling for her release.
Stephanie Allmon Merry contributed to this story.