For the first time in three months, nails, at last, will be varnished. Overgrown hair sullied by split ends and botched dye jobs will be remedied. Religious worshipers can gather again in person. And tattoo artists will etch clients’ carefully thought-out designs — or cover up subpar ink that once seemed to be a good idea.
Under a modified green phase that begins Friday, swimming pools, barbers, salons, spas, small religious gatherings, and zoos can resume business for the first time in three months since the coronavirus pandemic upended the U.S.
Philadelphia officials have been encouraged by the decrease in coronavirus cases over the last few weeks, but city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that safety precautions remain paramount and that Philadelphia could “take steps back” if the number of cases surges again.
“We may be tired of the pandemic,” Farley said in a statement, ”but the virus is not tired of us.”
“I’m a little nervous about reopening, as is everybody,” said Steph Pangburn, owner of Art Machine Productions at 1345 Frankford Ave.
The studio — like most tattoo shops — has added extra safety and sanitation procedures.
Staff has locked the entrance until clients call to be let in, and will take their temperature, direct them to sinks to wash their hands, and request that someone adjust a mask if worn improperly.
Only people who have booked appointments will be allowed in Friday, and just one client can enter at a time. Eating or drinking inside is prohibited unless someone feels faint while getting tattooed, and clients are barred from bringing guests. Tattoo artists will wear face masks, face shields, and gloves. Employees are to use hospital-grade disinfectants to clean vigorously, and often.
At Hunter Gatherer Tattoo, Philadelphia Eddie’s Tattoo in Queen Village, and Floating World Tattoo, their owner Troy Timpel has installed air purifiers and bacteria-killing UVC lights, mandated staff to thoroughly clean the studios, and halved the number of clients who could be inside at a time. Employees have to take extra precautions with piercings, which “requires a lot more PPE.”
His staff will pierce everything from ears to genitals but hesitates at lips, which could pose a safety risk.
“Short of a lip piercing, come on down,” he said. “This weekend is going to be a rush to get your hair and nails and tattoos done.”
The punk rock hair salon Talking Headz, which styles bright green pixie cuts and magenta mullets, will reopen on Monday. But the purple-walled West Philadelphia emporium might look more like a medical office.
Each stylist will be covered head-to-toe with gloves, mask, apron, and face shield — all of which will be cleaned or disposed of between appointments. Salon stations will be spaced more than six feet apart. And the receptionist will read customers’ temperatures with a thermal gun before allowing them to enter.
“We’re all taking COVID tests before we even start work,” said owner Heather Deforrest, adding that she and her employees will also continue to get tested on a biweekly basis after reopening. “We want to let clients know that we’re starting with a clean slate.”
Deforrest even has plans to install inter-station barriers for further protection and increase airflow with new HVAC systems, if she can secure funding. “Even though that’s not part of the CDC plan, it doesn’t hurt to talk about it,” she says. “Because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The salon, which opened in 2011, typically boasts an Instagram account full of “rad hair for rad people.” Since mid-March, the salon laid off nearly half of its staff. The gallery of cool cuts on its social media soon gave way to posts advertising raffles and gift certificates for funding to help the salon stay afloat.
To help offset the added costs of personal protective equipment, Talking Headz will add $5 to the price of its services, which range from $15 for a cut from an apprentice stylist to $125 for a double-process coloring. Its late policy will be stricter, too, in order to leave employees with enough time to disinfect stations between appointments. Customers who are more than five minutes late will have to reschedule.
All that may not be enough. “Some people aren’t ready to go in a public setting and have their hair done, and I totally understand and respect that,” she said.
But “my salon’s not going to stay alive much longer,” she says. “That’s the scariest part in all of this.”
Suitsupply, the Amsterdam-based men’s fashion brand started in 2000, plans to reopen its King of Prussia store on Friday. It expects to draw six or seven customers, a fraction of the 25 to 30 people who came in before the pandemic struck.
“We don’t expect to be as busy as we used to for a little while,” Fokke de Jong, Suitsupply’s chief executive, said Thursday.
In the last several weeks, the company with locations from Philadelphia to Belarus had implemented several safety precautions and gradually reopened some stores in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.
Philadelphia’s Suitsupply store, at 1601 Locust St., reopened earlier this month.
“There’s an area that we’re very unique in — how to get close to our clients because we’re about custom-made; we’re about making sure you get your perfect fit, so we have to do pinning and hemming,” de Jong said. “You can’t pin from six feet away.”
Customers who came to get fitted for a suit faced the mirror, mask on, while surrounded by three 8- to 9-foot plastic panels. A tailor reached through a cutout in a panel to hem and pin. Other customers shopped online and selected clothes to try on when they arrived at the store.
“We have a lot of customers who postponed their weddings,” de Jong said. “Generally, when people can go out again, they have dates, and they have social lives; they have meetings, they have weddings. They want to dress up again, and looking good is how we socialize.”
The Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia will bring back its popular blackjack tables, sports betting, and slot machines on Friday.
Every other slot machine on the 40,000-square-foot gaming floor was turned off and disabled to discourage people from playing beside each other, said David Strow, a spokesperson for Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, owner of Valley Forge Casino Resort. Blackjack tables that normally seated six players are reduced to three.
Boyd Gaming has already reopened 24 other casinos. Strow said the company’s casinos had seen “pretty strong interest from some of our customers.”
Employees, furloughed since April 11, will come back based on the number of guests, Strow said, and according to seniority.
Even with the go-ahead, some businesses are reluctant — or not yet ready — to reopen.
City Planter, a plant shop in Philadelphia, has no estimate when it will allow customers back in. When the pandemic started and the store temporarily closed, it moved all its merchandise to its new web store that has since been flooded with sales.
The business would run the risk of accidentally selling the same item online and in-person if it tried to reopen the store too quickly, said Sue White, who co-owns the shop with her husband, Peter Smith.
“We’re kind of opting to keep it the way it is for now,” she said. “Customers like that they can shop for plants at 3 in the morning.”