Thought leadership

While pubs and hairdressers have been given the all clear by government to reopen on 4 July, many business owners were disappointed to learn they must keep their doors closed for now.

“It was a shock. I can understand the logical argument but personally it feels very irritating and disappointing,” says Adam Grant, a tattoo artist and studio manager at Tattoo UK in Uxbridge, west London.

He says it was frustrating to hear that hairdressers can open on 4 July, while tattoo parlours must remain closed.

It was especially irritating since tattoo parlours already have measures in place to prevent-cross contamination he says, such as the disposable gloves and aprons which artists must wear.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Tuesday that the government’s public health experts will work with sectors which remain closed, to help them become “Covid secure” and open “as soon as possible”.

In the hope of a 4 July opening, Mr Grant had already made changes to the way the studio operated, including mandating face masks and asking future customers to come to appointments alone.

Now he says he has no date for reopening and no guidance on what safety measures will need to be in place.

“We’ve been left in limbo really, until further notice,” he says.

As a self-employed tattoo artist Adam was able to claim financial support from the government during lockdown, but he says that only covered him for 2-3 months.

“We may have to see if we can get another self-employment scheme because if we’re not allowed to open, we need to be compensated,” he says. The ten businesses still not allowed to reopen:

  • Nightclubs
  • Casinos
  • Bowling alleys and indoor skating rinks
  • Indoor play areas including soft-play
  • Spas
  • Nail bars and beauty salons
  • Massage, tattoo and piercing parlours
  • Gyms and dance studios
  • Swimming pools and water parks
  • Exhibition and conference centres

Beautician Tara Williamson is also frustrated by what she sees as a double standard from government, with hairdressers allowed to reopen but beauty salons staying closed.

She runs The Beauty, Skin and Eyelash Lounge in Epping and had planned to open on 4 July.

“I don’t really get it. I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t open and it will obviously be a big blow,” she says.

‘Seems crazy’

Tara had already made a number of changes at the salon, following safety guidelines that were issued to salons reopening overseas, in the absence of any clear guidelines in the UK.

“We’ve put screens in place, we’ve done a one-way system in the salon, we’ve prepared everything for the two metre distancing, we’ve staggered appointments, we’ve got sanitising stations,” she says.

“It just seems crazy that we have no guidelines of when we can open and what is going to be happening.”

Rob Ward, who runs YourGym, an independent fitness centre in Lytham, Lancashire, says he was also hoping to reopen on 4 July.

The gym received a government grant of £25,000 during lockdown and Rob was able to enrol his staff on the state-paid furlough scheme.

But he says closing for three months has inflicted a huge financial hit.

“You start a year with projected figures but they’ve all been knocked,” he says.

‘Positives’ from members

“We’ve had some amazing support from local members, who were able to support us financially even when they couldn’t come in.

“A lot of our personal trainers taught free online classes to keep the gym going. It’s been a crazy time but there are such positives that come out of it.”

Rob had been putting in place social distancing measures for when the gym can welcome back its members.

“Every other treadmill is out of order now, so you’ve got space. In our spin studio we’ve taken lots of bikes out,” he says

He’s also used tape to ensure space between floor workout stations, bought a fogging machine for overnight disinfecting, and introduced a new online booking system.

Even though the government has now reduced social distancing guidelines from 2m to ‘1m-plus’, Rob says he’ll keep the current measures in place “to inspire consumer confidence”.

“We need a date. That’s the main thing.”

‘Sad for everybody’

Mark Sesnan, managing director of GLL, says he’d also like a date to open his 200 swimming pools, with 11,000 staff across the UK.

“Basically we’ve been surviving on fresh air for the last 13 weeks. We feel extremely disappointed and let down,” he says.

“As an industry we submitted documents to government on 7 May. Those documents have all been accepted and we’d been led to believe they provided a good enough framework for re-opening.”

Mark says GLL was able to furlough most of its staff, but the organisation has also had to dig into its cash reserves. With pools geared toward a 4 July opening, GLL has also incurred costs from recent preparations such as water testing.

He says the worst thing about Boris Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday was the lack of a firm opening date for businesses that must remain closed. He’s called on the government to “come off the fence”.

“I was down at Charlton Lido yesterday in the blazing sunshine with a massive bright blue, empty swimming pool. It’s sad for everybody,” he says

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