Dear editor: Prohibition enables rogue barbers; allow us to treat customers safely

EPL Properties Ltd

“[…] With the government’s unremitting lockdown driving inherently law abiding barbers to make decisions in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions, it’s ultimately causing more harm than good.

“Customers are apparently less constricted by these restrictions and more willing to make themselves available for their well overdue weekly grooming.

“Inevitably, the obvious question becomes: your place or mine?”

In the following letter to the editor, barbershop owner Rudd Gonzales urges the Ministry of Health to work with the personal care industry to provide ensure safe service, rather than outlaw them:

Photo: Entrepreneur Rudd Gonzales (right) gives a customer a haircut at Cuts ‘R’ Us in St James.
(via Cuts ‘R’ Us)

With virtually 30 years’ experience and speaking as the proprietor of Cuts ‘R’ Us barbershop and Caribbean School of Barbering, I found it necessary, through this column of your esteemed website, to draw the readers’ attention towards the predicament now faced by barbers.

With no end in sight to the lockdown and bills continuing to rise, barbers are now faced with grave choices. Either to obey the stay at home order and face financial ruin or risk it all and operate underground, with the possibility of contracting the virus.

If you’re able to evade the illness, you must be prepared to deal with the consequences if caught by the authorities—which seems unlikely though, considering the number of well-groomed individuals walking around.

With the government’s unremitting lockdown driving inherently law abiding barbers to make decisions in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions, it’s ultimately causing more harm than good. Customers are apparently less constricted by these restrictions and more willing to make themselves available for their well overdue weekly grooming.

Inevitably, the obvious question becomes: your place or mine?

Photo: A Cuts ‘R’ Us customer displays his haircut.
(via Cuts ‘R’ Us)

Risking it all to look good? Picture an uncontrolled environment, with probably no PPE, no social distancing under a few drinks, with Nadia Batson in the background singing ‘so long I ent see ya!’

It’s just a matter of time before repeated requests from customers cause more barbers to yield. Especially as our ‘customers’ are considered friends, family, loved ones and, however you look at it, share a deep connection with their barbers that the government and Ministry of Health cannot break.

I suggest, rather than put energy into prevention, the same effort could be channelled towards regulating the operations of the personal care industry. Practitioners have a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of their customers, which could go a long way in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

Since this lockdown, I’ve had countless calls requesting service and I’ve turned them down—not because I feel I can’t keep them safe, but rather I’d prefer someone else be in defiance of the law.

My customers respect my position and try to support me. Customers have called offering financial assistance which I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to turn down as well. Barbers are a proud group—they don’t want handouts or government grants, they just want to work!

This uncertainty regarding our return to business is weighing heavily on service providers and, as a result, many have literally taken things into their own hands. Many in the personal care industry have transitioned back to a time before they had their established businesses and were trying desperately to make a dollar anywhere and anyhow they can.

Photo: A barber gets to work in USA, following Covid-19 preventative guidelines.

The nature of this industry is grounded in trust and unwavering loyalty. A customer called me to ask for permission to visit another barber for a haircut. I could only concur and hope all’s well that ends well.

The thriving underground grooming industry is hidden in plain slight and has become the new reality. Even public figures that you see every day who ought to know better and should set an example are getting their hair coloured and cut with no apparent fear of reprimand.

The solution is simple in order to give the green light to barbers and personal care practitioners, who should have to follow these instructions to the letter, in addition to any other additional recommendations by the MoH:

  1. N-95 face mask and protective screen must be worn;
  2. Customers must wear face masks;
  3. Gloves must be worn if necessary;
  4. Tools and work stations must be sanitised after every customer;
  5. Appropriate physical distancing within the work space;
  6. Appointments only;
  7. Fresh capes for each Customer must be mandatory (single use);
  8. Service must be barred at any sign of infection to customers and information reported to the proper authorities;
  9. If the practitioner shows any sign of Covid-19, service must be discontinued;
  10. Customers may wait in their vehicle until they are called to enter the place of business.
Photo: A barber in Switzerland shows off his new PPE.

With these measures in place, contact tracing is already easy to do because all appointments are documented.
The health side of this dilemma has been skilfully managed by the minister of health and prime minister. It is now the second innings and time to accelerate the re-opening process.

After the stellar first inning performance, we may not want the kamikaze Chris Gayle to open the second innings but not the ultra-conservative Larry Gomes either. Give us the accomplished opening pair of Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge who have the ability to read the conditions and determine the appropriate approach.

Employing some of their tactics may go a long way in securing a successful re-opening. When we see some businesses being reopened without any mechanisms for physical distancing and other preventive measures, its very disturbing.

Barbers in particular have a culture of employing sanitary measures before offering their services to each and every client. Therefore in this Covid-19 era they would be more likely prepared for heightened engagement of additional measures.

With the assistance of the Ministry of Health, we are willing to lead the way and show Oxford University that we are world class at not only providing quality haircuts but also in our adherence to cutting edge sanitation protocols and Covid-19 prevention.

Legitimate, patient, law abiding patriots deserve to join the workforce too!

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  1. I disagree with any call for acceleration though I have no doubt barbering should be an early part of the phased re-opening of society (or whatever we’re calling this return to normalcy) so I do concur barbers should be allowed to operate with the measures suggested in place (although, N95 masks? Who’s paying?) because it makes absolutely no sense to create a situation where the risk is greater (underground barbering) when things can be properly controlled and above board.
    Unfortunately this falls under the part where people are afraid to question the higher powers because they have done so well to protect us, and it feels like flying in the face of….(however that goes…) but hopefully there will be persons who choose logic rather than blind loyalty and take these recommendations and action them.

    • The acceleration is called to pacify the overwhelming demand, that is being placed on barbers who are breaking the stay home order, and to allow proper adherence to protocols. In normal times barbers can’t even manage the denands placed on them. So rather than have 50 or 60% of barbers working under the radar in an adhoc fashion, maybe if all barbers are on deck, they may be better able to cope and put these stringent measures in place. Therefore adhering to proper protocols. In the early days on covid19 one didn’t need much convincing to stay inside. With cabin fever and a better understanding of everything going on, it takes more for someone to convince you that they know whats better for you than you do.

      • Rudd, in response to your story, I’m in total agreement with the hair practitioners compliance, with the listings of Protocol, Nos. 1 thru 10 that needs to be adhered to by Barbershop and Salon Owners, when given the green light for Re-opening and as you stated, I have also seen persons with fresh haircuts, ladies with change in hair colour and wondered.
        To step away a bit from your heading, some persons are still going about their business in the Public domain without Mask and not conforming to Social Distancing, that being the case, I must give kudos to most Business places who have insisted on social distancing, wearing of mask, washing and sanitizing hands before entry. Most have seen the importance and comply, while some would still be delinquent in their day to day activities, not only the young generation, sadly to say, mature and elderly persons as well.

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