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Toronto barbershop asks Province to let it reopen as black market hair salons thrive

A Toronto barbershop owner is calling on the Province to allow hair salons and barbershops to open this Monday as the City moves out of its stay-at-home order.

Like it or not, people are getting their hair cuts illegally right now, says Peter Gosling, co-owner of Glassbox, which has five locations across Canada and a barbering academy

People are entering strangers' homes to perform cuts, risking their health and the potential spread of COVID-19. 

Some Toronto residents are even willing to drive outside of the city for some grooming. Or in some cases, just five minutes to York Region.

As the black market industry flourishes and peope bypass regional health regulations, Gosling says legitimate barbershops and hair salons, which were forced to close three months ago, "feel unfairly targeted" by the Province's grey zone rules

"It is clear that our services are of high importance to the wellbeing of individuals," said Gosling in a letter to Premier Doug Ford, shared with blogTO.

"In addition to the health risks, these services are not taxed, stylists are pocketing cash while collecting government assistance, and it is unfairly taking clientele away from legal and compliant businesses. This will continue to happen and likely become more prevalent if the government does not act soon." 

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Glassbox owner Peter Gosling says that hair salons and barbershops should be allowed to open on Monday. Photo by Ryan Bolton.

Prior to November 23—when all hair salons and barbershops in the city were forced to shut down—Glassbox had invested thousands of dollars on PPE, new contactless hand sanitizing dispensers, outdoor tents for clients to wait outside, and splash guards. 

Like all other hair services in the city, Glassbox shops also reduced their capacity and took clients by appointments only. 

At the beginning of the last grey-level lockdown, a number of Toronto hair salons like Trichology Boutique, The Loft, and Studio Fontanato pointed to the minimal number of COVID-19 cases associated with personal care services.

With health measures up to par, licensed stylists and barbers are confused as to why they can't legally work in regulated salons right now. The closures have been financially devastating for many businesses and the professionals working in them, says Gosling.

The Hamilton location of his shop, which was been able to stay open for the majority of 2020, is now being booked up Toronto clientele willing to hit Highway 403 for an hour, just to get a hair cut.

"It is clear that people will go anywhere they can and do whatever they want to maintain a good physical appearance," said Gosling.

"I have done everything I can do stay in operation, but when one is at risk of listing their life's work and their ability to make ends meet, one must take a stand." 

Lead photo by

Ryan Bolton


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