Jeremy Regan was a bit shaken, after learning his Winnipeg barbershop may finally be able to welcome back customers this weekend.
After being closed for more than two months, "I was a little bit shell-shocked, because I’m kind of in this routine of not working, which is not a good routine to be in. But overall, I’d say I was pretty excited to hear the word that we potentially could," the owner of Hunter & Gunn said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the province announced a list of COVID-19 public health restrictions that could be loosened as early as Saturday, including the reopening of businesses such as barbershops and hair salons. A final decision is expected to be made public Thursday.
Regan said it’s not a surprise salons could be opening a little sooner than other businesses, because they were quick to reopen after the first pandemic shutdown in spring 2020.
However, it’s going to be difficult — and possibly illegal — to get up and running for the weekend.
His Broadway space has been shuttered for 2 1/2 months, and it needs to be cleaned and prepared for customers — a job Regan said will take five or six staff members to complete, bringing additional hurdles to reopening.
"On Friday, until midnight, having five people in that space is going to be highly illegal," he said. "So we’re going to have to sneak in, keep the lights down, keep the blinds closed, so we can go and clean the shop."
He’s already booking appointments for Saturday, and the weeks ahead, with the expectation the province will allow barbershops to open on the weekend.
Regan called it equal parts "funny and upsetting" the province has left his industry to wonder if it will be able to reopen just a day or two before Manitoba’s current code red restrictions expire.
"I could go on and on about the frustrations about this whole thing, that runs deeper beyond us just opening, but that particularly is just frustrating," he said. "After being off that long, you want to hit the road running on Saturday."
Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Loren Remillard said the province could have been more considerate of the many parts at play in reopening a business. Inventory has to be restocked, staffing has to be rebuilt, and additional personal protective equipment and cleanliness training has to be completed.
"More time is always better," Remillard said. "For so many of these businesses, it’s not just a case of turning a key and flicking on a light switch."
The chamber has recommended its members "start doing the due diligence" necessary to reopen in advance of the province's decision, he said.
"Absolutely, they should prepare, but until such time as Thursday, when there’s a green light — it’s a go — you can never say definitively... So our advice to our members is prepare as if you will be opening based on what we’ve heard to date."
The rush toward reopening was a little more muted Wednesday at Hilary Druxman Design, a Winnipeg jewelry boutique.
Customers have taken to the curbside pickup and delivery model, owner Hilary Druxman said, but said the downtown shop will have to make some changes should non-essential shopping be brought back Saturday. Namely, it will start setting up appointments for people who want to come inside and see product for themselves.
"If we just opened right now, we just don’t have our inventory built up like we normally would, because we’re working with a smaller staff," she said. "And I just want to keep all my staff comfortable with having to deal with customers coming in, and we can service them better that way."
The door will stay locked to casual shoppers, Druxman said, and she'll "play it by ear" when scheduling in-person appointments.
"Certainly, being able to have customers able to come in by appointment and deal with them, that part we miss," she said.
"For some people, if they’re doing custom work or they have a certain repair, it’s better to have them come into the store. So that will help, being able to go back to at least a limited number of people in the store."
Whatever form the new public health orders take, they will be put in place for three weeks and reassessed in mid-February, the province said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.