Salon owners in New Brunswick's orange zones are decrying the provincial government's decision to shut them down in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
"It's infuriating," said Saly Davis, who runs Le Salon Dieppe together with her husband.
Clinton Davis agreed he and others in the industry are "definitely shocked and upset."
At the orange level in the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, "close contact personal services such as barbers, hair stylists or spas" are closed.
Gyms, theatres and bingo halls also have to shut down, but most other businesses and institutions remain open.
"It's not logical to us," said Clinton.
"It doesn't seem fair to have us closed and other industries open."
"We are one of the most sanitary industries out there."
"You don't know what you're talking about if you think we're less sanitary than the bars and the clubs", said Saly.
The Davises point to an industry practice, which predates the pandemic, of disinfecting tools such as combs and scissors with medical-grade products after each client.
They say in recent months measures have become even more stringent.
They wear masks and gloves and change their outer layer of clothing after each client.
The employees at their salon spend 15 to 25 minutes between clients disinfecting their workstation, then another 15 minutes cleaning themselves and their tools.
"I am not saying the exotic night club employees are not doing that," she said, "but there's got to be a question mark at this point."
Because of the extra time it takes for cleaning, the number of clients they can take in a given period of time has been cut in half.
There's no more waiting area — clients have to wait in their cars. There's no browsing in the retail section — only online sales. And there are no more refreshments available — they let their licence lapse.
The Davises assumed, said Saly, that if their clients were being asked to wear masks for COVID safety, they shouldn't be able to remove those masks to eat or drink.
And they've redesigned the salon space and installed barriers for more privacy and sanitation, she said.
"A lot of these businesses have invested tremendous amounts of money after being closed for months," she said.
"We were just on our way to recovery."
"Do they want to see this many local businesses file for bankruptcy or have to shut their doors?"
Salons were closed for 75 days at the start of the pandemic.
The Davises worry their business won't be able to survive another stretch like that and their employees will be forced to abandon them for work elsewhere.
"Our team, our employees work hard every day to provide for their families, make an income, make ends meet," said Clinton.
Dalhousie's mayor said he had heard similar things from hairdressers in his town.
"Everybody's struggling to try to earn a living," said Normand Pelletier, "It's not easy."
Riverview salon owner Ashley McDavid started a petition online asking officials to either reconsider the orange phase designation or grant salons the ability to open without offering higher risk services such as facials, which require a client's mask be removed.
So far it has about 4,700 signatures.
McDavid pointed out that part of her training included infection control measures.
She and many others have pointed out what they see as inconsistency in allowing certain other businesses to remain open.
"I can go to a strip club, but I can't get a haircut," said Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin.
"I don't know how that can be normal."
Green MLA Kevin Arseneau expressed similar sentiment.
"I understand the frustration of the owners of hairdressing salons," he wrote on Twitter, "a controllable environment, where measures can easily be reinforced, when, unlike bars/clubs, an 'uncontrollable' and unpredictable environment can remain open."
He and the Davises are calling for transparency in the government's rationale for ordering salon closures.
In an email, Health Department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said the Orange Phase designation means "there is a significant risk that the COVID-19 virus could become uncontrolled within the community."
Macfarlane said that is why there are restrictions on non-essential close contact activities to decrease the risk of community transmission.
"Whereas restaurants/bars are required to ensure tables of patrons are seated two metres apart and staff have only short interactions with patrons, services provided by hair stylists and salons require close contact for longer periods of time, leaving clients and staff at a high risk for exposure to the virus."
Macfarlane added the department recognizes the significant impact these measures have on individuals, businesses and society, and said officials are continually assessing the situation across the province to ensure measures and requirements are appropriate.
"Public Health would be pleased to meet with the New Brunswick Registered Barbers' Association, the Cosmetology Association of New Brunswick, and other stakeholders should they wish to bring forward their COVID-19 operational plans for Orange Phase." Macfarlane said.
"To our knowledge, there have been no known cases associated with salons."