Travel restrictions sting CU barbershops


Abe Baali

The interior of the G&R Hair Salon rests quietly on Monday afternoon. This business, along with other barber shops, have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Chieh Hsu, Contributing Writer

Months after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order on March 20, the majority of barbershops and salons reopened at the beginning of June. Nonetheless, their operations are by no means the same. 

Moreover, for barbershops that used to provide service primarily to international students, their customers’ absence proves to be a strike on their business.

“We used to have five stylists in two different salons on Green Street,” said Steven Sun, owner of Top Hair Salon on campus. “Now that the Chinese students are gone, we had to close one of our stores down and can only afford two stylists. This makes our business 20% compared to the same time last year.”

Chinese international students make up one-ninth of the student population at the University, but travel regulations issued by the White House in February prohibited many of them from entering the U.S.

G & R Salon, located on campus, also used to rely on serving Chinese international students.

“Our business is one-seventh compared to a year ago,” said Grace Guo, owner of G & R salon. “This isn’t even enough to pay off the rent.”

Guo is also the owner of the C-U Lala Noodle restaurant on Green Street. “When it comes to restaurant dine-ins, I think it is just the same as walking into a barbershop to receive service,” she said. “I trust the restaurant staff at sanitizing the area just as the customers in my salon trust me.”

Hair-cutteries were subject to a number of early state and national restrictions, which eased up a bit during the summer. Per guidelines by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities, barbershops still need to make their service appointment-only and remove shared items in the waiting area.

For Leland’s Barbershop on Green Street, this means sacrificing a symbolic aspect of the haircut experience, according to the store’s owner Zach Farrar. 

“Customer interactions are a lot different,“ he said. “The hall waiting room would be filled up, we got an arcade system in here, and we offer drinks and beers. Just all that stuff you can’t do in the barbershop anymore.”

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