New Brunswick barbershops busy as province enters new phase of COVID-19 recovery

Some New Brunswickers may be a little less shaggy on Saturday.

Barbershops and hair salons are allowed to open in New Brunswick during the “yellow” phase of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan, announced on Friday by Premier Blaine Higgs.

Blaine Harris, the owner and operator of Lancaster Barber Shop on the west side of Saint John, opened Saturday morning to find customers already lined up outside his door.

Harris, the registrar of the New Brunswick Registered Barbers’ Association, has been a barber for 35 years. He said his business was closed for 10 weeks due to the pandemic.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Harris said. “I have some dogs, so I was out with my dogs every day. It became boring after a while because there was really nothing you could really do.”

READ MORE: How New Brunswick’s four-step plan to recover from COVID-19 works

Harris said he was confident hair care centres would be allowed to open soon when New Brunswick entered the “orange” phase two weeks ago, so he began preparing his shop.

All customers are required to answer COVID-19-related questions before they can enter Harris’ shop.

The waiting room, which can now hold only six patrons, features a seating area divided into individual chairs by curtains. Patrons are required to sign a registry, take a number and wait to be signalled to the barber chair.

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One of his first customers of the day was 10-year-old George O’Hearon, who was seeking his first haircut since March.

“It’s not as long,” O’Hearon said, describing what he believes is the best part of getting a trim.

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Harris said he has no problem with the extra safety precautions, but reopening has not come without challenges.

He said suppliers have increased prices dramatically, especially on personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The masks that we’re using right now, before the pandemic, were $30 a box,” Harris began. “Now those masks are $140. And it’s the same brand, the same product, but the suppliers are saying their supply is more expensive.”

RELATED: New Brunswick reverses ban on temporary foreign workers

Harris’ new-look waiting room was jam-packed throughout the morning.

Chris Maguire waited more than two hours for his first haircut since February.

“It’s never been this long,” Maguire said. “It’s heavy, it’s thick. It’s hard to manage. I’ve got to get up earlier in the morning to get ready for work because there are hairs everywhere.

“A little bit more hairspray than normal, that’s for sure.”

The line extended outside, where customers waited patiently on newly-placed social-distancing sidewalk decals.

“It’s a haircut, right?” said Chris Williston, who was already more than 45 minutes into his wait time before he got in the door.

“But this is one of the rewards we get for being good and respecting our social distancing, so I’m pretty excited for it. It’s like a birthday party for me right now.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick reports no new cases on first day of new COVID-19 recovery phase

Harris said the pandemic shutdown was his longest stretch without cutting hair in his career, so he was more than ready to return to work.

Not all New Brunswick hair professionals believe reopening right now is prudent.

Douglas Black, owner-operator of Egoiste in uptown Saint John, has a compromised immune system.

He believes New Brunswick may be moving too fast.

“I just had hoped we’d have a little slower pace,” Black said Friday.

“I know people are very anxious, and I know they’re missing our services, but it’s a lot all of a sudden, put into the throes of what you have to do in order to make this happen.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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