Rise of underground barbers in Toronto concerns health officials, hairstylists

Mar 22 2021, 1:43 pm

Health officials and hairstylists say they’re concerned about a rise in underground hair cutting services in Toronto and Peel regions while the lockdown keeps salons closed.

Health Minister Christine Elliott asked Ontarians to avoid businesses that skirt the rules and wait until salons open at a news conference Monday.

“Please be patient another few weeks,” she said. “You will be able to get your hair cut. Ive been waiting for that a long time myself.”

Toronto’s Dr. Eileen de Villa seconded that message, explaining that any and all close contact increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“We are looking to figure out ways to allow for personal services settings to open in a manner that’s safe, cautious, and appropriate to the circumstances of COVID-19 in our city,” she said.

But Toronto’s COVID-19 indicators tell health officials that the outbreak is growing. The city’s weekly moving average of new cases increased to 450 this week, and it’s unclear how soon officials will relax more restrictions.

Hair cuts have been forbidden for five months now in Toronto. Personal services including hair salons were shut down November when Toronto entered its second lockdown since the pandemic began.

Since then, offers for at-home haircuts have sprung up on buy-and-sell sites such as Kijiji. Individuals with scissors and clippers offer to come to client’s homes or garages while salons are closed.

underground barbers

Kijiji

Many of the mobile barbers say their equipment is sanitized and they follow COVID-19 precautions such as wearing a mask.

But some salon owners in Toronto are worried these underground barbers will undercut businesses who are following the rules and waiting to re-open properly.

Infection control is a large part of a stylist’s training, according to Beni Sicilia, owner of Blowdry Lounge. When looking for a haircut online, clients don’t always know what kind of qualifications the purported barber has.

“We’re in school for bacteriology, virology… how to properly sterilize,” he told Daily Hive in a phone interview. “That’s a big portion of our careers.”

Tyler Moore, owner of Parlour Salon with three locations in Toronto, said the rise of rule-skirting haircuts is also something that concerns him.

“This is going to have a major impact legitimate businesses once we open back up,” he told Daily Hive via email. “I’d like that these new businesses are equally scrutinized for the high standards that we are held to.”

Health officials have previously said they won’t rule out the possibility of allowing outdoor haircuts, which may allow salons to get back to work in a non-traditional way.

But Sicilia and Moore both said they’re not interested in cutting hair on the street because of the logistical challenges. They’d rather be allowed to open indoors with necessary precautions and book an appointment for a vaccine soon.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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