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Hairdressers Are Considered an Essential Business – We Asked Joey Scandizzo How Salons Are Adapting to the Coronavirus Era

We also hear about his new Instagram TV project and how he’s spending his extra time around the house.

There’s been some confusion in the past two weeks over what is and isn’t considered an essential service in Australia. While the list of businesses that are allowed to remain open has shrunk to the bare necessities – supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies – many have asked why hairdressers are permitted to remain open, particularly while social-distancing rules are being enforced.

The government hasn’t explained why hairdressers are considered essential. Scott Morrison has told Australians to only get a haircut if they consider it “absolutely necessary”, and to follow advice from the federal health department.

That advice is, first of all, to follow social distancing rules and maintain 1.5 metres between people – but this isn’t possible during a hairdressing appointment. Some hairdressers are so concerned that industry body the Australian Hairdressing Council has launched a petition demanding salons and barber shops be closed down.

The federal heath department claims the impracticality of social distancing during a hairdressing appointment isn’t an issue. A representative told The ABC that if hairdressers spend most of an appointment behind or to the side of a client, minimising face-to-face contact, there’s a lower risk of infection.

We spoke to Joey Scandizzo, the hairdresser behind Joey Scandizzo Salon and the Kings Domain Barber Shop chain, to hear how his businesses are adjusting to the new regulations.

He says government messaging has been confusing, and salon owners and employees feel a little uneasy staying open when other beauty-industry services have closed over the last few weeks.

“It’s great that we’re classed as an essential service, but given the current government regulations we have to abide by, it’s confusing to understand how we can get around and still keep social distancing from clients and one another.”

Scandizzo has more than 20 years’ experience cutting hair in Melbourne, but – like all of us – he’s never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying government restrictions on trade.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride. We’re trying to adjust to new rules, trying to keep up with staff who want to work and staff who are unable to,” he says. “Things change everyday. We’re navigating through the unknown at the moment and we’re following the government’s rules as closely as possible.”

The rules for hairdressers in Victoria, which the state government has outlined here, state that “[h]airdressers, barber shops and hair salons may continue to operate, ensuring no more than one person for every four square metres of space.”

Scandizzo says his salons are following government rules and health advice as closely as they can. They’ve introduced a few new measures to do so.

“We’re sanitising after every client, staff are wearing masks, we’re using paper cups, magazines have been removed and every second chair has been removed to allow for a two-meter gap,” he says. “It’s mostly about social distancing for us.”

Scandizzo says staff morale is still good, despite some confusion around adhering to social distancing rules while they work with visitors.

“As much as it’s brought on pain and stress, it’s pushed us to come up with new ideas, it’s encouraged us to improve, and it’s brought us closer together as business partners,” he says. “We’re staying as positive as possible at this moment.”

Fewer appointments means that Scandizzo’s salons and barbershops have adjusted their focus to selling hair-care products for customers to use at home, though he says shifting to retail isn’t necessarily the biggest challenge facing the hair and beauty industry.

“It’s the unknown. Can we stay open? How long can a client be in our chairs? Each day is different, and ensuring clients and staff are safe is our biggest challenge,” he says. “We can only go off the advice provided by the government and medical professionals. We trust this and follow it.”

Despite the challenges facing his business, Scandizzo is enjoying some extra time at home with his family – though he says raising three children (aged one, three and five) isn’t necessarily straightforward.

“It’s harder than work! My wife, Jane, and myself have a program in place we’re trying to follow to manage things at the moment,” he says. “The greatest thing to come of this is spending more time with my family, it’s what I love. We’ve all been playing soccer and reading together.”

Spare time at home has also allowed Scandizzo to work on an Instagram TV series, which will be available soon.

“I’ve started a side project that involves Zoom and IGTV, where I speak to key industry icons. It helps me feel uplifted during these times.”

Business aside, Scandizzo hopes people can take a few things away from this time in quarantine.

“Slow down, regroup, reconnect, exercise, have fun, spend more time with your family and look after your health,” he says.

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