DENVER — When clients sit down in Maria Walker's chair for a haircut, many of them are surprised to learn the salon remains at 50% capacity despite restrictions being lifted for other businesses.
Walker owns Salon Theory in Denver, and she can't help but feel like the beauty industry has been left behind as nearby restaurants and gyms are being allowed to operate at 100% capacity.
"We can’t operate like we normally would, but overhead has stayed the same. It’s gone up because we had to open seven days a week instead of our normal five days a week," Walker said, adding that clients aren't spending like they used to.
The salon has lost four employees since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but Walker said she is unable to rehire additional staff while her capacity remains limited.
"We’re trying to be fair to the girls who stuck through this with us for the past year. I don’t want to cut anybody’s hours to bring somebody new in, but then the business is struggling because we are losing that income from rehiring people," Walker said.
Megan Montoya, a hair cutting specialist at the salon, was working 50 hours a week prior to the pandemic. She said she's thankful to have a job even though capacity restrictions have limited her hours.
“We basically have been told recently that our job is so dangerous that we can’t open up to 100% capacity, but our job wasn’t so dangerous that we were considered in a priority group for the vaccine," Montoya said.
A spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment said the City and County of Denver (DDPHE) is abiding by capacity standards established by the state's COVID-19 dial for Level Blue.
"While restaurants can open at 100% capacity in Denver, they still have to abide by proper social distancing between tables, so that does not mean they can open their doors and let everyone in. There are still limitations because of space," said Tammy Vigil with DDPHE.
Walker has family and friends in the restaurant business, and she knows they were hit hard during the pandemic. She is glad to see they are able to fully reopen and hopes her salon will have the same opportunity soon.
"We’re in Wash Park — there’s restaurants all over. I’m happy to see them full all the time. I’m happy for them. I just feel like we’re not being considered," Walker said.
In an effort to increase capacity, another Denver salon is offering outdoor haircuts. Stylists at Salon Bohdi are cutting and coloring hair outside, weather permitting.
“It gives several other chairs outdoors. We have two stations set up with lights and fountains, and it’s just lovely," said Stacy Johnson, the owner of Salon Bohdi.
Denver will reevaluate restrictions for person services, like hair salons, when the current public health order expires on May 16.