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‘We have to eat too’

While many New Providence businesses will be permitted to open come Monday with various restrictions, those in the beauty industry have not yet received the green light to operate once again.

Many who make a living as cosmetologists, barbers, nail techs and other beauticians were left feeling disappointed after the latest COVID-19 emergency order was released on Wednesday.

Leslie Newton, owner of Vanity Cafe Beauty Salon in Palmdale, said the beauty industry is suffocating under the emergency orders even though salons were required to be certified by the Ministry of Health prior to reopening in June.

But several weeks later with cases spiking, the competent authority, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, ordered non essential businesses to close again.

“I have been operating within the protocols and the lockdown lasted like four months,” Newton said.

“Four months with no income. You are suffocating the local economy. You are not allowing us to survive, but you want us to support the food stores? Where are we getting the money to eat? We need to eat, but how are we able to do that?”

Newton said she understood why lockdowns were necessary during the onset of the pandemic, but noted that there should have been some strategy towards coexisting with the virus.

“Initially, the first three months were grim, but it was something I felt was necessary for us to get a handle on the pandemic,” she said.

“If you’re going to allow the country to open up partially, there should be a plan. There should be a strategy at this time. It was from March. We are at the end of August. By now it should have been a plan. This is something new for everyone. However, you have to be strategic. This is not going away anytime soon.”

The business owner said it was an unfair decision to allow some businesses to open while others remain closed.

Retail businesses and gaming houses are among those businesses that are permitted to operate in a more liberalized commercial environment on New Providence, Grand Bahama and several other islands, but, in addition to salons, bars, spas, casinos, gyms and cinemas must remain closed.

“…If you are going to be allowing businesses to be open back, do allow some level of contact,” Newton said.

“It needs to be fair. It needs to be straight across the board. Set up the necessary task force to do the impromptu visits to make sure businesses are operating within the protocols.”

Newton said that bills are stretching her pockets, but with no income it is hard to live day to day.

She said her landlord is demanding payment and utility companies are not being lenient.

“They [are] still shutting off the light and the phone and everything,” Newton said. “It almost feels like a sabotage to suffocate the local economy.”

Alsaida Deleveaux, owner of Glamorous Chicks, off Robinson Road, said with no income, she borrowed money from a friend to ensure that her shop was abiding by the health protocols.

“The funny thing is, we put these things in place,” Deleveaux said.

“I borrowed $1,300 from one of my friends who is also a salon owner to put the [protocols] in place. I did a little upgrading to the salon to make it safe. I removed seating so that I can [adhere to] the order with social distancing. I did this so that I can survive. We still closed down.”

Deleveaux expressed disappointment that the prime minister has not given an indication of when salons may reopen.

“After all is said and done, there’s still no opening date for us,” she said.

“You just put us in a section. That does not mean in two weeks’ time the beauty industry will open up. These emergency orders can stretch for months. This is ridiculous. Everyone has bills.”

The cosmetologist said the industry has been left out.

“You know everybody [is] in a crisis,” she said.

“You know the country closed down. I mean you treat the whole beauty industry as [being on the] back burner. You really don’t care what’s happening with some of us.”

Deleveaux said although some people are taking the chance to operate from home, she is not prepared to risk catching the virus.

“Some of us hustle,” she said. “Sometimes you may pack your stuff and go to somebody’s house. You might have a space at home where you can do it. Not everyone is willing to take that chance. Some of us live with sick people. Some have underlying issues. You don’t want to bring everyone into your home. My husband has kidney failure. I can’t walk anyone in here.”

Deleveaux said most people in the beauty industry have met the Ministry of Health’s safety measures and are ready to open up.

“We have the store,” she said “the sanitizing bins there. They bring out the shield. You can wear your shield and your mask. They need to assemble a team. Go to these places and make sure these people follow protocols.”

Some barbers are also disappointed that they must remain closed. 

Wilfred Culmer, 30, who offers barbering services, said the recent data revealed on Monday does not suggest that barbershops or hair salons were responsible for most COVID-19 cases.

“We look at the dashboard every day,” he said.

“The numbers increase. The dashboard is lacking. It’s lacking nationality and job occupation. Your health resume is not there. There is nothing to say that the numbers increasing was traced to a barbershop.

“The barbershops have been closed for two or three months. How are we to say that the numbers you get every day are [inked to] barbershops, beauty salons, anywhere. We don’t know where none of these numbers coming from. We just look at the dashboard.”

He also said that with the beauty industry still closed, the situation may take a turn for the worst if people go into survival mode.

“We don’t want the same thing that happened during Hurricane Dorian to happen in Nassau,” Culmer said.

“People will begin to loot and break into stores to survive. I haven’t gotten to that point, but don’t allow Bahamians to get to that point. We are so far ahead in technology as small as Nassau is. Don’t allow people to get to that point where a march and a rally wouldn’t be enough and we need a little more. I feel like we could operate on a more educated playing field. We should be allowed to work and do our own due diligence.”

Sue Taylor, a nail tech who operates on East Street, said she has been trying to make ends meet amid the pandemic, but with the prime minister’s decision, she feels hopeless.

“It’s nothing I can do about it,” Taylor said.

“We have to live with it. What he is doing is poor. His actions [are] very poor. If he is going to open up certain places, he should open up everything. Just set a standard where masks are required, gloves are required. A lot of people aren’t eating. People out here with no water or electricity, but thank God my situation is a little different.”

She said people in the beauty industry received money from the National Insurance Board (NIB), but since then have gotten nothing and their business is still closed.

“Nail techs, barbers and hairstylists got $2,200 from NIB,” Taylor said.

“That was a one-time thing. Can’t get nothing else at all. For me, I’ve been paying NIB for 20 years and that’s all I got. That’s chicken feed. Thank God for people like Hands for Hunger who are helping people.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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