The coronavirus pandemic is claiming most places where people gather, including Ohio's polling places on Primary Election Day, but not beauty parlors and barbershops—for now.

Editor's note: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered salons, spas and tattoo parlors to close as of the end of business March 18.

The coronavirus outbreak is hitting nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Gov. Mike DeWine announced March 16 that all gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters and public recreation centers must shut down by the end of the day, following a 9 p.m. March 15 shutdown of bars and in-restaurant dining. With the primary election postponed after a night of legal and political chaos, schools closed and organizations telling their employees to work from home, there is little normal activity left. 

One of the few exceptions to the rule is salons and barbershops. As of this writing, DeWine has not ordered these businesses to suspend services. And he is the only one with the authority to do so. 

Margaret Rolf, executive director of the Ohio State Cosmetology & Barber Board, says the organization does not have authority to close a salon or barbershop. The board oversees approximately 130,000 licensed individuals, salons, barbershops and tanning facilities across the state. 

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That’s good news for barber Sean James. He works at The Cut in downtown Columbus and counts athletes from the Crew and the Blue Jackets as regular clients. He told Columbus CEO that from a physical standpoint, he hasn’t been overly concerned about the coronavirus due to the strict sanitation requirements the Cosmetology & Barber Board already enforces. He said barbers are required to disinfect tools such as clippers, razors and blades between clients. He also regularly sprays down his workstation. 

James said foot traffic has been down since the outbreak began. “Normally, our doors are always swinging open. Now, people trickle in. No one’s getting ready for the weekend, or preparing for a job interview or presentation.” 

James expressed concern about how businesses would handle operating costs if the state ordered them to shut down. “I would hope they’d make rent free for everybody. They say it’s possible to get loans from the Small Business Administration, but that sort of thing can take a long time. A lot of people would get hit hard.” 

Columbus-area businesses such as Kenneth’s Hair Salons and Day Spas, Phia Salon and Posh Nails are among those staying open until told otherwise, while Charles Penzone has closed its salons.

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“We’re a service industry. We rely on the community to support us,” Posh Nails owner Vanda Rourn said. Technicians rely primarily on tips and commissions for income. Rourn said she has been preparing her employees in case the business is ordered to temporarily close, or if revenue severely drops due to a lack of foot traffic, by offering increased hours and educating workers about the loans available to independent contractors. 

Rourn said she's staying positive and focused on looking forward. “Once the lockdown is over, we'll pick up rapidly again. You have to look to the future and think of this as a bump in the road. It won’t be the end of our business."

Not all companies are keeping the doors open. Charles Penzone made the decision to shut down all of its Columbus-area locations as of March 16, with the goal of reopening on March 30. The company said in a press release that leaders made the call to keep employees healthy. Penzone is “committed to supporting all their team members during this time,” the company said, but did not specify how. 

Erin Laviola is a freelance writer.