A group of beauty workers are calling on Governor Doug Ducey to remove them from the list of "essential services" that would be exempt from enforced closures related to the new coronavirus.
Several cosmetologists who spoke with Phoenix New Times say they don't understand why their industry belongs on the same list as health care facilities, grocery stores, banks, and transportation services.
As Brittany Temple, a nail technician based in Gilbert, put it: "People are not going to die if they don't get their hair or nails done. That's absolutely absurd."
Temple said it's impossible for her to maintain six feet of distance from her clients, as per the CDC's recommendation for social distancing.
Like many cosmetologists, Temple is self-employed and rents out a suite where she sees clients for nail appointments. She said she chose to close up shop for the time being, despite the fact that she might not be able to keep up with rent payments.
"My mother is diabetic and she lives with me. I had two nurses contact me and cancel because they were exposed," Temple said. "That was a big enough for me to make the decision not to work."
Ducey last week issued an executive order listing essential services that Arizona official are banned from restricting in their attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus. Among those listed: "Personal hygienic services," which include beauty salons.
Several mayors have criticized Ducey's list as too broad, and some have specifically questioned the inclusion of beauty salons and golf courses. Defying Ducey, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans ordered beauty salons in her city to close on Friday. At least four states have also shut down hair and nail salons.
A spokesperson for Ducey did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Two beauty workers who spoke with New Times said they fear that the "essential services" designation will make it more difficult for them to catch a break on rent.
Michelle Edwards, a hairstylist who rents a suite in Litchfield Park, said her landlord specifically cited Ducey's executive order when she told her tenants that she is continuing to charge the same rent.
"Because we are deemed an essential business, my landlord is saying, 'Guess what? It’s your prerogative if you want to stay open, but you’re still going to pay rent.'" Edwards said. She added that she understands that her landlord has financial obligations as well and suggested that striking salons from the essential services list could grant her landlord leniency, too. Edwards said she's continuing to see clients — despite having many cancellations — just to make her $300 weekly rent payments.
Heather Ferguson, a hairstylist who rents a suite in Scottsdale, said her landlord has offered to work with tenants on a payment plan, but will not reduce rent. "If we were mandated to shut down, then our landlords who are expecting rent would be more lenient," she said. "Otherwise our landlords are like, 'Well, you’re choosing to close.'"
Ferguson stopped seeing clients about three weeks ago. Instead of styling people's hair, she has been making wigs on mannequins. She said one of her friends died of COVID-19 about a week ago.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.