In Limbo: Businesses not allowed to open left with uncertainty

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday he was going to let his stay-at-home order expire and allow non-essential businesses, such as movie theaters and clothing stores, to open at 25 percent capacity starting Friday. He also announced restaurants, libraries and museums could open as long as they limited occupancy but said businesses such as hair salons and gymnasiums could not open just yet.

Local business owners who were not allowed to open said that while they believe there have to be restrictions so the re-opening can be done in a safe manner, for both customers and workers, they do not think a movie theater is safer than a gym, a hair salon or a yoga studio.

“ Something that made me feel very angry was to listen when the governor said he was going to allow movie theaters to open, pretty much everything but gyms and hair salons. We, when we are studying cosmetology, we have to read hundreds and hundreds of pages that talk about bacteria, about how to sanitize the chair after each client, sanitizing the scissors and the hairbrush,” Carlos Constantino, owner of Constantino Hair salon, said.

“ We learn the difference between cleaning and sanitizing and everything has a process. When we have to do our state exam for our license, the most important part is how we clean and sanitize, even if we do everything else right if we don’t clean and sanitize correctly we fail the test.”

Constantino said that while the landlord of the hair salon has been very understanding, there are still a lot of expenses that he has to cover because he has to keep providing for his family. He said people think that because he is a business owner he has a lot of money, but the truth is all the revenue they have been making at the hair salon has gone to opening their cosmetology school, which was founded a few months ago.

The business owner said that the current administration makes it seem as if the process of getting the help from the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan program is quite easy, but the truth is the process to apply for it is extremely difficult. He added that even after going through that process, the loan was denied for his business.

“ It’s practically impossible to be able to access that money and even receiving unemployment is very difficult to get, too. A lot of our employees have had unemployment denied because they either didn’t make enough money or they don’t have all the paperwork they need,” he said.

Esthela Valdez, owner of Breathe Hot Studio, said she has been having the same issues with the Small Business Disaster Loan and it has been weeks since she applied. She was told she was not going to receive any confirmation about whether or not it was approved and all she would see was the money in the account.

She added she hopes the studio can open soon because unlike regular gymnasiums, students there don’t have to touch anything. Valdez said the transition of closing has been very difficult because since she had just expanded to a bigger place her expenses multiplied.

“ Our yoga studio is very different than a gym because we don’t touch anything, everyone just comes in with their own mat and that’s it. At the gym, yes, you touch machines and things like that. We used to have mats for our students here but ever since this started we removed those and we sanitize before and after each class,” she said.

Rodney McClanahan, owner of Hardknox, said that even though members of the gym do use equipment, during the weeks before they had to close down everyone was being extremely careful and considerate of others by disinfecting equipment after each use.

McClanahan said he is concerned for the health and overall well-being of every member of the gym and said the closure has not only created a huge economic impact but also a mental one. He said he hopes all businesses that were allowed to open are responsible and take precautionary measures to keep everyone safe.

“ It would be selfish for me to say that we need to open now. Yes it would be great if we could, but I want to keep the well-being of everyone,” he said. “I would rather wait for things to get back to a state where we are able to function right with the same groups that we had and the same amount of people coming to the gym.”

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com