Businesses across the country have been reeling from closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Black barbershops, in particular, have been struggling to survive as their businesses have come to a standstill and their options for relief are increasingly limited.
CNN reports that as more states begin to ease restrictions, black barbershops have been divided on whether or not to reopen. As COVID-19 has been shown to have a disproportionate effect on black communities, shop owners are torn between a desire to protect their communities and a need to earn a living. The American Barber Association is an advocacy group comprised of an estimated 3,000 members, with about 30 percent of them being black. Damon Dorsey, president of the organization, told CNN Business he’s been in contact with owners who’ve expressed concerns about the spread of the disease but also need to “get back to making money.”
In Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp authorized non-essential businesses to reopen last Friday, many black barbershops have already elected to do so. 54-year-old Craig Logan is the owner of Dre and Craig’s VIP Cuts in McDonough, Ga., and he estimates that about 85 percent of the shop owners he knows chose to reopen their doors. He has decided to remain closed due in part to public pressure but also because he has both an aunt and a cousin who recovered from COVID-19 after being hospitalized. “I agree with the general sentiment, even though, like everybody else, I wanted to get back to work,” Logan told CNN Business.
Black barbershops are also struggling to find relief through the Paycheck Protection Program that was intended to help small businesses. Dennis Mitchell, 54, is the owner of Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop in Harlem. He found out that since his employees are independent contractors, he didn’t have enough employees to qualify for the program. This is a situation many shop owners are facing across the country.
Ivy Hopson, 49, is the CEO and Founder of the Menz Barber Lounge in Milwaukee, Wis. He applied for a loan through the program and never received a response. “If you’re a barber and you’re not a large enough priority for a major bank or financial institution, you’re going to be at a disadvantage getting your application in. We’re going to see a certain level of disadvantage for black-owned business because of the nature of systemic racism that exists in the financing industry.” Dorsey, the ABA president, told CNN Business.
The black barbershop is more than just a place to get a haircut. It’s a community hub where folks gather to chop it up and fire off takes on all the issues of the day. It’s a very real possibility that a significant number of these institutions won’t be around in a post-pandemic world.
“It’s kind of bone-chilling,” Dennis Mitchell told CNN Business. “ A lot of [black business owners] are not going to come back from this.”