SF allows gyms, barbershops to open for indoor service

Assistant Editor

Joe Gallagher, left, talks with District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman in the backyard of Joe's Barbershop ahead of personal services, including barber shops, gyms, fitness centers being allowed to resume indoor service — with restrictions — September 14. Photo: Courtesy Rafael Mandelman/Facebook
Joe Gallagher, left, talks with District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman in the backyard of Joe's Barbershop ahead of personal services, including barber shops, gyms, fitness centers being allowed to resume indoor service — with restrictions — September 14. Photo: Courtesy Rafael Mandelman/Facebook  

Six months after being ordered to close their doors due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, gyms, barbershops, nail salons, and other personal service businesses in San Francisco will be able to open for indoor service Monday.

But due to the pandemic, they will only be able to do so at "limited capacity," according to city officials. More exact details should be announced by September 14, but business owners are expecting they will be restricted to 10% of their allowed capacity inside based on where San Francisco currently is on the state's tiered COVID rankings for counties. It is in the red colored tier, as seen online.

"So many gyms are smaller than our gym, so 10% capacity means being able to pay the bills," said Dave Karraker, who with his husband, Glenn Shope, owns MX3 Fitness on upper Market Street in the LGBTQ Castro district.

They are part of the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition, which came together earlier this year to advocate on behalf of its nearly 100 small studios across the city. The coalition members together employ more than 800 people and provide health and well-being services to more than 25,000 residents.

In recent weeks it has raised alarms about the city still restricting such businesses from being open and threatened seeking legal action if the restrictions were not eased. Even after the city announced the new rules Thursday, the coalition warned in a news release that, "this entire business sector is on the verge of collapse due to financial burdens, having not been open in any meaningful manner since March."

Karraker told the Bay Area Reporter the gym owners have been on a "topsy-turvy rollercoaster ride" since May, when they first began working with city officials on finding a way for their businesses to reopen safely.

City officials had allowed gyms to begin offering outdoor workout sessions and classes in the summer. As of September 1 they allowed barbers and hair stylists to see their clients for outdoor appointments.

The gay-owned Joe's Barbershop at 2150 Market Street opened in its backyard that Tuesday. They have seen a stream of clients ever since, though were forced to close Wednesday when the sun was unable to break through the smoke and fog, causing a blood orange darkness to befall on the Bay Area.

Owner Joe Gallagher told the B.A.R. Friday that he is hopeful the city will base the capacity on square footage. If so, he expects he will be able to utilize roughly half of the 11 stations he has inside his storefront, which he noted, has windows both in the front and back that can be opened to provide for air circulation.

"We will certainly start back in on Monday based on whatever the stuff is," said Gallagher, who marked his 16th anniversary in business Thursday. "I expect we will have to take out or use only six of my 11 stations. That way there is plenty of room between each station ... It should be very, very safe and fulfill all the city requirements."

For information about its appointment process, visit its website.

Up the street at the former location of Male Image, barber David Hone is working with a new owner to reopen the barbershop under a new name at 2195 Market Street. For now, he is seeing clients Tuesdays through Saturdays in the back patio space of the private LGBTQ-focused members club The Academy at 2166 Market Street. People can make appointments by calling (415) 850-8376.

"My pathway is so uncertain. I'm at The Academy for now. Back to the old shop when they get their permits," Hone told the B.A.R. Friday.

As the B.A.R. reported in July, MX3 Fitness started holding fitness trainings with clients out on the sidewalk in front of its business after city officials allowed gyms to hold outdoor workout sessions. Until the smoky skies resulted in extremely unhealthy air quality this week, the gym had been at capacity with the four supervised workout stations it had set up along the 2300 block of Market Street.

Starting Monday, it will move one of the stations inside and, if demand warrants it, will add another station for supervised workouts. It will also be able to offer unsupervised indoor fitness, but at 10% capacity, it can only have four people inside the gym at one time.

"If the air improves, we expect there will be greater demand for outdoors," said Karraker. "A lot of clients don't want to be inside at all."

Fitness SF's Castro location, which was damaged early Friday morning when a car ran into the building at 2301 Market Street, has yet to post to its website or Facebook page when it plans to reopen. As of Friday afternoon the website only said that personal training clients could see their personal trainer only for outdoor sessions.

The local chain's South of Market location, as of September 9, has been offering an outdoor gym members can book reservations to utilize. It is expected that the gym's various locations will institute a reservation system when they do reopen.

Once San Francisco advances to the next COVID tier, coded with the color orange, the businesses likely would be able to bump up their capacity to 25% indoors. Hair salons, tattoo and piercing parlors, and massage services are also among the businesses that can reopen Monday but only for those services where face coverings can be worn at all times by everyone involved.

"Given our local trend in COVID indicators, low-risk, limited capacity indoor activities may resume," stated Dr. Grant Colfax, a gay man who is the city's public health director. "We will continue our gradual reopening as it allows us to monitor the spread, manage its immediate challenges and mitigate the long-term impact on our city. Our reopening pace continues to be informed by our ability to manage the risk of more activity that may result in more cases and hospitalizations. Our success is contingent on everyone doing their part, including wearing face coverings, social distancing, and avoid large gatherings."

Small businesses can utilize a program overseen by San Francisco's Office of Economic and Workforce Development to request a 30-day supply of hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and face shields via a community-based organization. To do so online, click here.

Hotels and short-term rentals, outdoor family entertainment centers, drive-in entertainment like outdoor movies, and outdoor tour buses and boats will also be allowed to reopen Monday under rules the city devised for outdoor gatherings. Places of worship and political activities such as a campaign office can also open but only for one person at a time indoors; up to 50 people outdoors.

Also starting next week indoor museums and galleries can submit health and safety plans to the city's Department of Public Health in order to open as early as Monday, September 21.

As for schools and educational services in San Francisco, Community Hubs will open September 14 to support students with distance learning. In-person learning and child and youth development activities will also be opened on a rolling basis.

Classroom instruction will also be brought back on a rolling basis starting with the youngest children. Thus, limited classroom learning for children up to the sixth grade should resume September 21 if schools have been given approval for their safety plans.

The city's goal is to allow for middle school in-person learning sometime in October. And in November, it hopes to open high schools for in-person learning.

"I'm so glad we can move forward earlier than expected to reopen more businesses that have been closed since March. These businesses have been struggling, and starting Monday, they'll finally be able to serve customers again, with the necessary safety precautions and modifications in place," stated Mayor London Breed in announcing the news. "It's on all of us to keep doing our part so that we can get more businesses reopened, get our kids back in school, and keep making progress on our economic recovery."

She stressed that people should be still be taking precautions to protect themselves and others from being infected with COVID when out in public.

"Wearing face coverings when you go out, keeping your distance, and washing your hands will help us keep the rate of transmission down and will help San Francisco recover from this pandemic," stated Breed.

Gallagher told the B.A.R. that he has not had any issue with customers of his barbershop following the rules on masks and social distancing.

"It's been great. We have been very, very busy," he said. "It's been awesome, people have followed the instructions and knew to wait out front until we texted them. Our customers are from San Francisco and are awesome, so everybody pretty much understood."

San Francisco's reopening plan can be found at https://sf.gov/topics/reopening.

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