In anticipation of the reopening of his two salons in Guaynabo and Condado today, professional stylist Esteban Montes has activated a sweeping safety protocol to protect customers and employees from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, he confirmed.
In an interview with this media outlet, Montes said the operational shutdown that began March 16 has represented some $300,000 in losses to his two salons, where he has invested between $8,000 and $10,000 in each to prepare for the reopening — “under very different circumstances.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life, and this great impact has added to the list of critical situations that Puerto Rico has been experiencing since Hurricane María,” Montes said. “What the coronavirus [COVID-19] hasn’t been able to attack is our resilient fighting spirit and the joy of living that makes us stand out worldwide.”
The significant loss of revenue includes rent payments, utilities, insurance policies, “all of which add up, because there aren’t many expenses that slow down when a business shuts down.”
As part of the reopening, the salons will work at 35% capacity from Monday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. At Galería San Patricio, the salon will operate with a total of 12 employees daily in the areas of styling and haircuts, aesthetics, laser services, manicures and pedicures, as well as reception, maintenance and administrative staff. In Condado, it will operate with 15 employees in the same duties.
The staff will rotate during the week in their respective salons to “alternate and give an opportunity to all employees in their specialties to work three to four times a week. The physical distance space in both locations has been established at six feet between workstations and common areas with clear information and signage,” Montes said.
Likewise, the infrastructure of the salons and have integrated fresh air intake systems that extract air from the premises and replace it with clean air from the outside every two hours, similar to negative pressure systems, which guarantees clean air. Esteban Montes Salons have activated carbon filtration systems to guarantee the air quality in both facilities for employees and clients.
“We’ve adopted the safety and prevention provisions established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control to guarantee the safety and health of our equipment and clients and to mitigate the risk of contagion,” he said.
“The company required its personnel to undergo COVID-19 tests, present their evidence certificates, and all of them showed negative results,” Montes said.
Once inside the premises, all staff must use personal protective equipment, including face masks, face shields and hand sanitizing products. There are also hand washing stations with disinfectant soap for employees, customers and visitors.
Another monitoring measure requires employees to undergo COVID-19 testing every two weeks, which the company will cover.
A daily deep cleaning and disinfection protocol of the salons been established to take place prior to opening and after closing, as well as between customers sitting at the service stations, where they will also pay for their services, buy products and schedule their next appointment, Montes said.
“We expect to increase our pre-bookings, which the customer will do right from their chair, from 40% to 80%, as soon as we open, because given that we’ll be open fewer days, clients will have to wait longer for their next appointment. So, we believe they’ll be willing to secure their next visit,” Montes said.
Clients will be required to use face masks and take a temperature check prior to entering the salon. They will also be provided with shoe covers and disposable gowns and bags to place their belongings while getting their services.
Montes said the salon will implement a flat $4 COVID-19 charge to salon customers, regardless of how many services they get, to cover the new expenses.
Montes told this media outlet that during the nine-week shutdown, Esteban Montes Salon employees — of which there are 50 in total — participated in online training sessions and were given the opportunity to generate revenue through online product sales.
Montes also said that, aside from the incentives the government provided, his operation applied for financial assistance made available through local and federal agencies, including the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Furthermore, he said the Esteban Montes online shop will remain open post-shutdown, “so that customers can purchase products, and take advantage of offers and services without having to go to the salon in person.”