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Toronto barbershop owner issues urgent call for Ontario to allow them to reopen

Salons, barbershops and other businesses offering personal care services in Toronto are now in their 17th week of being completely shuttered to the public, and their hopes for being able to recover are dwindling.

Stylists and owners have been waiting to reopen — with rigorous health and safety measures in place — as customers turn to the black market or region-hop for haircuts while such businesses remain forcibly closed in the grey zone of Ontario's colour-coded reopening framework.

One prominent figure in the industry has just spoken out on the topic and issued a call for their peers to put further pressure on the provincial government and "bombard" officials before more businesses are forced to shut down permanently.

"This is what it's come to ... they're still not allowing us to open up in the grey zone due to projections of a third wave," Peter Gosling, educator and owner of the Glassbox Barbershop chain said in a five-and-a-half minute video posted for his 20.3k Instagram followers on Friday afternoon.

Gosling went on to claim that the grim modelling projections for COVID-19 numbers provided by the province's advisory table "have never been accurate," and suggested that decisions regarding business closures should no longer be made based on such figures.

"We've gone on a year now and now we're just moving the goal post again into another 'three-week lockdown,' which is fine if you are doing something that's unsafe. And what we're doing inside barbershops and salons is completely, 100 per cent safe." 

The business owner, who wrote a plea in the same vein to Doug Ford earlier this month, also said that hairstylists are the only red seal trade not currently sanctioned to operate under lockdown, and in his opinion, their workplaces rival dental offices as far as safety is concerned.

Salons managed to prove last fall how little their settings contribute to virus transmission, with most of them in the city reporting zero infections over weeks of resumed operations in the summer.

Meanwhile, some professionals have turned to underground, at-home haircuts to get by — sometimes as many as 40 to 50 per week, Gosling says — in environments far less safe than shops, which heed screening, social distancing, masking, capacity limits and other measures.

"In a big box store you can have up to 150 in at one time; we're not even taking 150 in an entire day. This is illogical, it's irrational, and it's irresponsible to the people who own small businesses in the beauty community," Gosling said.

He also called the recent suggestion that stylists be permitted to cut hair outdoors rather than inside as a safer way to open up "insulting."

Toronto has been home to some of the longest and most prohibitive lockdown restrictions on the continent, with "non-essential" retail stores finally green-lit to resume operations with limited capacities earlier this month and patios able to open this weekend, both for the first time since November.

Lead photo by

Ryan Bolton


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