Salon owner Ramona Potts has already lost one customer who wouldn’t wait any longer and found someone else to do a hair-coloring treatment during the pandemic.

Another customer calls about every three days asking her to cover his gray.

“I tell him, ‘Wear a baseball cap,’” said Potts, owner of the Atomic Kitten Salon at 1920 Eye St., who has an elderly mother at home and worries about COVID-19 exposure.

She has another reason for turning away business in lean times: The state has threatened to fine and pull the license of any barbers and beauty professionals who defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-home order by keeping customers looking good during the quarantine.

The situation has created as many temptations as it has risks for local barbers, stylists and manicurists.


Lured by customers offering to pay three times the normal rate and the occasional $100 tip, some are operating out of their garages, entering darkened salons through the back door or going to people’s homes to deliver services in secret.

“It’s a lot of kind of sneaking around,” said Bakersfield cosmetologist Tanya Murrell, who said it’s been two months since she worked at a salon, her main income. “So far, I’ve been telling customers, ‘No, I can’t do it.’”

The quarantine is devastating stylists, barbers and salon owners who have worked hard over many years and now worry state restrictions will cost them their customers, their lease and their businesses, said Fred Jones, counsel and public policy advocate at the Professional Beauty Federation of California trade group.

Salon owners are being hurt because, under a recent legislative change, many no longer employ stylists and so they don’t qualify for federal paycheck loans.

Stylists and barbers suffer, too, Jones said, because they often under-report their earnings behind the chair, which leads to slim unemployment benefits during the coronavirus crisis.


The federation sued California’s executive branch in federal court last week in an effort to get barbers and beauty professionals back to work. Jones said the state will have to respond by 3 p.m. today if it hopes to avoid an emergency injunction.

“The governor should partner with state-licensed professionals in bringing these services back in the controlled, clean and safe environment known as our licensed salons,” he said.

The state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, whose members are named as co-defendants in the trade group’s lawsuit, said by email Tuesday it is sympathetic to the “ever-changing environment” its licensees face during the pandemic.

But because its role is protecting consumers’ health and safety, it’s asking people to avoid salons while the board prepares a checklist for them to reopen after the state ban is lifted.

Local hair-cutters say they’re cautiously optimistic after Newsom announced Monday some salons may be allowed to open the first week of June. He suggested widespread reopenings could come “within a few weeks.”


The downtime has been especially hard on barber and cosmetology students. Representatives of two local schools — Bakersfield Barber College and Lyle’s College of Beauty — said graduates aren’t able to take their licensing tests and near-graduates can’t put in the work needed to finish their educations.

They said once the schools do reopen things will be different: There will probably be no reception areas, customers will be allowed in on a more limited basis and class sizes will be cut.

“We’re usually pretty packed with customers so we’re actually having to take things a lot slower,” said Mary Madrid, vice president of the Barber College. She added there is still no firm indication when such schools may reopen.

Potts, the owner of Atomic Kitten, said her landlord gave her a break on rent during the quarantine and she’s passing along the savings to the 10 stylist-tenants she rents space to. But they’re not her employees and she can’t tell them when they can and can’t work.

On Tuesday, a stylist there went ahead and colored the hair of a customer whose roots had grown out more than an inch and a half. Customer and cosmetologist alike wore masks.


Potts said she is actively preparing for the day when her salon is cleared to reopen by the state. There are temperature readers for checking customers before they enter, disclosure forms that must be signed prior to the delivery of service and disinfectant dispensers at every work station.

Still to come are ultraviolet lights for sanitizing work spaces overnight and curtains being put up as soon as mid-week to isolate hair-cutting stations.

Trish Labbe, manager at the Barber College, said she recently decided to cut her own hair and messed up. Noticing it was uneven, she kept trimming and now wears a hat or pulls her hair back in a ponytail.

She said the quarantine has taught people what’s really important in life.

“It’s the roof over your head and a haircut,” she said.

Follow John Cox on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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(14) comments

Jerry Todd

Two weeks ago, I was called to continue my dental treatment. I'm going back today for the next and second to last phase. (Love getting my 4 front teeth back!) Yesterday, my Esthetician daughter called me in tears. She said the salons and barber shops are opening, but only to cut and style hair. Her trade requires her to touch the faces of her clients, therefore creating an alleged infection hazard. Essentieles Spa has done all kinds of prep to meet the Covid safety requirements, just as my dentist's office. The last I recalled, my dentist and his assistants are touching my face, even going into my mouth with fingers and equipment that could be contaminated with the infected breath of a passer by. My point is simple. If a dentist's office is okay for touching faces, what's the difference for a precaution taking Esthetician? It has become obvious we've been led down the trail by scientists unsure of what is right and media and progressive despot politicians relishing in newfound power and control to push their globalist, eugenic agendas. California among the worst. Put my precious daughter back to work and calm the fears of her wonderful bevy of clients frightened of a media monster out of a highly contagious but less than 0.1% fatality rate pandemic.


A hairstylist with coronavirus worked for eight days this month while symptomatic, exposing as many as 91 customers and coworkers in Missouri, health officials said.

The case highlights the threats of community spread in the United States as businesses reopen after weeks of restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Some beaches will have police to enforce social distancing rules over Memorial Day weekend

In this instance, the 84 customers exposed got services from the hairstylist at Great Clips, said Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. In addition to the customers, seven coworkers were also notified of exposure.

It's unclear when the stylist tested positive but the infection is believed to have happened while traveling. The stylist worked May 12 through Wednesday, health officials said Friday. At the time, businesses such as barbershops and hair salons were allowed to operate in the state.

Boogerface Nutter

I feel for the hair salons and employees. No one I know needs a haircut more than I.

Rather than whining, I just brush it and wait, while sending the woman who cuts my hair the same amount of money I would hand her for cutting it.

She thanks me each time, which is good enough for me.

I guess that's just a "Liberal" action (I'm far from a liberal) but it seems to make sense right now. Oh, the once-a-month housekeeper also gets her money each month without coming by.


I have been extremely careful since the lockdown, even though I have my doubts whether or not it's necessary for me. It is for my sister who lives with me. She is vulnerable. She has Cancer and had just finished Chemo and is now going through radiation. Regardless of the safeguards we have taken, I have a cold and she's coming down with one. Her son-in-law also has one. It will spread through our families like wildfire. So much for the effectiveness of the quarantine. Next time I think I'll put my money on Herd Immunity.


My barber has cut my hair twice since the “lockdown.” They follow very safe procedures, as do I. I recently tested negative for COVID19. I don’t pay higher prices but I do leave a higher percentage tip as a show of support for their business. We are not careless, nor are we paranoid. ALL businesses should fight to open even if against any/all so-called orders. The government, whether Federal, State, or local HAVE NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to subvert/suppress ours or businesses right to do business. It can be, and has been, done safely. Get off your tyrannical high-horses and get out of America’s way or WE WILL MOVE YOU!

Boogerface Nutter

Obviously you like to toss the word "Constitution" around without actually having a working knowledge of what that document allows as "States Rights"

I suggest you do a bit of internet searching and look for the reality. It's out there.


What the Constitution allows as "states rights" has sadly become highly subjective thanks to the courts. While Amendments IX and X reserve undelegated powers to the states or to the "people", the fed and the states constantly fight over that territory. Does a state have the right to restrict abortion, set it's own drug laws or it's own immigration laws, or cast its electoral votes according to the popular vote of any state other than its own voters? Depends in large part on who is sitting on the bench.


"She said the quarantine has taught people what's really important in life."


All Star

Do you troll other social media sites besides this one?

Independent Voter

Get this through your head, Dweeb - if it all collapses before our very eyes and our way of life it totally destroyed, then there will be nothing to come back to after 6 months, a year or more of house arrest. Seriously, you can downplay the economics of this but, like it or not, we have NO quality of life if the underpinnings of our society collapse. Get real. Yes, all life is important (funny that liberals don't extend that mantra to unborn children, but whatever), but to lose 2 or 3% of the population may have to be the sad sacrifice that is made to preserve the long-term health, security and well-being of the vast majority. Nobody likes that, nobody revels in that but it has always been the American way. You may not have anything to lose cowering at home, but the rest of us have responsibilities and obligations and you've got a lot of nerve making noise and standing in the way. By all means, stay home, paste a mask across your face, wrap yourself in plastic wrap, whatever - but get out of the way and let us grown-ups get back life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


Don't feed the Trolls...

Boogerface Nutter

Grown up? You're a 5-year old child.

Liberals? How did this become a liberal-conservative thing. My friends cover the entire spectrum of American culture. Most are staying home as much as possible and wearing masks in public.

Easy to talk about deaths as tribute to our lifestyle..or YOUR lifestyle.

I wonder how you would feel on a ventilator and hearing the doctor tell the nurses you cannot be saved and use that ventilator on someone more likely to survive?



IV, you are trying to reason with a socialist who lives off of government benefits and has likely never had a job. It and those like it will never become productive members of society because in this day and age we allow them to be leeches and they are happy to be that way. Just the way it is.


I agree and also would be saving money for a rainy day.......

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