My business is closed and my clients may potentially go somewhere else

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Studio 72. Midvale, Utah hair salon. Courtesy: Brooke Kirschenbaum

MIDVALE, Utah (ABC4 News) – It may be debatable but for many individuals, grooming plays a vital part in their everyday lives. Whether it’s just looking good in public, for a significant other, or for confidence building, it’s a great feeling getting a haircut, color, or styling done.

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The livelihood of any hair or nail salon depends on stylists and the clients of those styling artists. However, after state and countywide mandates for so-called non-essential businesses to close their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The crisis has caused a myriad of financial stress on hairstylists and salon owners, such as Brooke Kirschenbaum who owns Studio 72 in Midvale, she is a stylist as well.

The four-year owner of Studio 72 followed suit with the rest of salons in Salt Lake County by closing in mid-March. Kirschenbaum says she actually stopped working on March 20, as a safety precaution to her clients.

Brooke tells ABC4 “it’s hard seeing my tenants not be able to pay rent on their booth space because they aren’t able to serve their clientele, ultimately leading to possibly not being able to pay rent at their place of residence or make a car payment, among other financial responsibilities.” While Kirschenbaum and most of her tenants have applied for the various financial relief funds through the state including the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP. Although the lack of business from tenants not able to style hair will affect Brooke’s ability to pay rent for the entire Studio 72 space, she has graciously offered tenants a 45-day deferment with a payment plan on their space’s lease agreement.

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She nor any of the tenants have yet to receive any funds. Self-employed and gig workers are now able to file for Unemployment claims, Brooke says “they are all waiting and hoping for the unemployment funds to come through, but it’s a bit of a hoop to jump through as the claims require individuals to provide their 2019 income taxes, which some of the girls don’t have. “I’ve waited on the phone for over two hours waiting for someone to answer at the unemployment office, before I had to finally hang up.”

For now, Brooke is surviving personally on credit cards to provide for her and her son. In regards to Studio 72, she says due to her tenants not being able to pay rent on their space since they aren’t working May’s rent for the entire studio will have to be paid out of disaster funds accumulated through insurance.

Brooke is hopeful restrictions are lifted by mid – May so she and her stylist tenants can get back to work. However, with the uncertainty of when things will open back up, some of her tenants have already decided not to renew the leasing agreement for booth space.

As a stylist, in Salt Lake County restrictions on working remain in place at the time being. However, in surrounding counties restrictions have already been lifted or in some cases never were issued.

“As a stylist, I’m put in a position where a client tells me, well I found someone to do my hair in Utah County, well that’s great I’m making no money and now maybe losing a client indefinitely,” says Kirschenbaum.

Like many other stylists, Brooke has had several clients approach her about making house calls, but she hasn’t accepted any of the opportunities as the risk of a fine upwards of $10,000 is a possibility in addition to the potential of spreading the virus. ” It would kill me knowing I did someone’s hair and they ended up getting infected COVID-19 and it spread to a high-risk family member,” says Kirschenbaum.

Related: Some hair salons open in Cache County after getting OK’d from Bear River Health Dept.

With stimulus checks still being dispersed across the country, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for hairstylists. The funds can at the very minimum help catch up some lingering bills. Brooke has told her tenants she does not expect them to use their stimulus check for any rent payment, but if and when the unemployment checks began rolling in she is hopeful tenants can begin some sort of payment plan on any outstanding rent as that would serve as more consistent income in the short-term.

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Non essential businesses were originally told the restrictions would be lifted by April 14, which that time has come and passed. Brooke was told by the Salt Lake County health department either a May 1, or May 15, re-opening is likely. For now no definitive date has been set, until then she says she’ll continue “a silent shampooing in prayer, until things get back to normal.”

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