For barbers, turning a profit under COVID-19 guidelines is a close shave, indeed

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Photo shows the Wakefield Street storefront where Town Square Barber is located; inset, owner Sue Erickson cuts hair during a Friday appointment.(Courtesy photo; inset, Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - Town Square Barber owner Sue Erickson says New Hampshire's current guidance on barbershops and hairdressers just isn't cutting it.

"Having to make reservations for a haircut is killing us," Erickson said on Friday while waiting for her next appointment.

She said between answering the phone, answering phone messages, returning phone messages and texting back and forth with potential clients, it is an absolute nightmare.

Michelle Woods, a barber who works alongside Erickson, said earlier in the week the business phone rang 20 times during one haircut.

In an email to Gov. Chris Sununu's Office sent on Aug. 11, she complained that "Between all the clean up after each client and answering the phone, text messages and listening to voicemails we barely have time to cut any hair. Therefore we are not making any money."

Current New Hampshire guidance says no one can be in the waiting area, but barbershops and many hair salons traditionally allowed walk-ins. Erickson wonders why they can't have a couple of customers in the waiting area, which would easily allow for six feet between patrons.

The scenarios under which the pair operate every day include:

Customers call in, make a reservation, then find a more comfortable time somewhere else, but never call back, so the appointment time is lost.

Customers will text back and forth, sometimes as many as five or six times, before setting up a time for a haircut; the time spent arranging the appointment often takes longer than the haircut, itself.

Add to that all the extra cleaning and sanitizing between appointments and the bottom line just isn't working, Erickson said.

She wishes new guidance would take away the "only reservation" mandate and allow them to have a signup sheet in their waiting area where customers could sign up for a specific time as well as allowing two or three to wait in the waiting room with social distancing in place.

"I'm just asking if (the governor) can rethink the appointments and perhaps update some of the guidelines for barbershops," she wrote in her August email.

She said on Saturday the governor, whom she supports, still hasn't returned her email, but she's hopeful he'll still tweak the guidelines as he did for restaurants, which can now operate at 100 percent capacity as long as social distancing is in place.

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