Jorge Salgado was prepared when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the reclosure of indoor operations for a number of county businesses earlier this week.
The Santa Barbara native reopened his barber shop, at 1233 State St., a few weeks ago and followed every health protocol required. He considered moving his business outside despite feeling like he had more than enough room inside to ensure the safety of his customers.
Still, when the governor’s order came down due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, barber shops were one of the businesses forced to stop indoor operations.
“I’ve been avoiding going outside because I had enough space inside and I felt safe inside until the news, so I thought I’d give it a shot and take the business outside,” Mr. Salgado said.
Even with the short notice, Mr. Salgado quickly pivoted and got set up right outside his shop by Tuesday afternoon.
He had two barber chairs right outside his location, and people were still eager to get a haircut.
“My goal was to hinder the spread and having an open air environment would be the best solution for the barber shop and for the client. With the newest news from the Governor, my understanding was if you can modify your business to conduct services, by all means, do it,” Mr. Salgado said.
So he did it — and it was a success.
“It was successful, everyone loved the idea. We were getting a lot of compliments and a lot of thumbs ups. People want to see us in business,” Mr. Salgado said.
Unfortunately, that pivot did not last long.
At noon Wednesday, some 24 hours after setting up the chairs, Mr. Salgado received a visit from a member from the Santa Barbara City’s Attorney’s Office who informed him that he would have to close down his outdoor operations as well.
“They were very generous, and they were quick and respectful,” Mr. Salgado said.
The person who visited from the attorney’s office informed Mr. Salgado that they had contacted the Board of Cosmetology and that he would have to close down his outdoor operation.
They added that he would have to apply with the board to try to get an outdoor license, something that took Mr. Salgado by surprise.
“I’ve never heard of them doing that, because they can’t regulate outdoors, so that’s my concern. It saddens me, it really does. I honestly think it would have been a very, very successful outcome for everyone,” Mr. Salgado said.
John Savrnoch, Chief Deputy District Attorney of South County, who has knowledge of the situation said his job, along with other entities in the county, is to best enforce the public health orders.
“That’s really our focus, and what we are finding, almost universally, is that when informed of the latest orders and what the requirements are, businesses are complying,” Mr. Savrnoch said.
Mr. Salgado also complied with the latest public health order, which allowed for businesses to move outdoors and Mr. Savrnoch agreed, but ultimately it became a state licensing issue.
“It is my understanding that their state licensing doesn’t actually allow that (outdoor setup), so even though the public health officer may have felt it would be acceptable there, they’re also governed by another licensing agency that issues rules that didn’t have anything to do with COVID-19. So it’s my understanding that the barber shops, the initial thought to let them open up outside was withdrawn, due to the fact that it may violate their other licensing,” Mr. Savrnoch said.
Mr. Savrnoch likened the situation to what the Alcohol Beverage Control Board did, which allowed restaurants, when they were fully closed down, to sell alcohol for takeout orders.
“That wasn’t the case for the barbershops, unfortunately, at least until now,” Mr. Savrnoch said, adding that he feels sympathy for the businesses that are trying to do what they can to remain in operation.
For now, Mr. Salgado’s only option is to apply for said license and hope for the best.
“There’s hundreds of thousands of people trying to contact them so I have no clue when I would hear back. I really, really respect the city’s decisions… but I would have wished I had brought my services outside a month ago to see if this would have been an issue,” Mr. Salgado said.
Another issue for Mr. Salgado as he awaits a response from the board is that he will have to financially support his shop himself, through his own savings.
“I really got my life on the line here. I’m a local, born and raised and I’d never thought I’d have a shop and you know, I’ve been here on stage for five years, been at this location for three years and now I really have my back on the wall,” Mr. Salgado said.
“I might even have to start a GoFundMe. I don’t want to, but if the city wants this shop to stay I need a bit of help.”
Even though times are tough right now, Mr. Salgado, who will turn 35 Friday, believes that things will work out and he can get through this.
“I have a big weight over my shoulders, but I am going to prevail and I am going to do what I have to do,” Mr. Salgado said.