Corona cuts: Barber shops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons to shutter Saturday

Alex Paez
Alex Paez says less people have come to get tattoos and piercings since the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

From close shaves to closed doors.

Workers at Brooklyn’s barber shops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons are facing an uncertain future after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced mandatory closures to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“These temporary closures are not going to be easy, but they are necessary to protect the public health,” the governor said.

Shops deemed “non-essential” across New York — as well as the rest of the tri-state area — will have to close their doors to patrons by 8 pm on March 21, assuring a major economic hit to small businesses at a particularly devastating time, said one Crown Heights piercer.

“Around this time is usually our best time. Because of tax season, everybody has a little more money to spend on piercings and tattoos,” said Alex Paez, who works at Gothic City Ink on Union Street near Utica Avenue.

The forced closures come after an uncertain work week, where customers had been canceling their ink and pierce jobs and opting to spend money on essentials like food and medicine instead, according to Paez.

One Park Slope barber said that he’s had fewer customers overall — although some have come in for last-minute shape-ups before heading into quarantine.  

“We had some people today who said they wouldn’t know when they can get a haircut again,” said Serj Yu, a manager at Elegant Barber on Seventh Avenue near 15th Street.

Yu said that the shop will remain open until the evening before the ban to attract as much business as possible, but he understands the imperative to close the businesses affected by the ban during this peculiar situation.

“I understand people being cautious so there’s really nobody to blame,” he said. “It’s a worldwide situation and there’s nothing we can do.”

When reached for comment, dozens of businesses across the borough did not answer their phones — and many had voice messages informing customers that they’d closed due to virus fears.

The owner of a Crown Heights nail salon said that he had sent his employees home last week, after many workers feared coming into close contact with people on the job during the pandemic.

“Workers were all scared to come in,” said Jack Xia, who owns Sammy’s Nail Salon on Nostrand Avenue and Pacific Street. “You’re touching hands and you’re close to people’s face and you don’t know who has [the virus].”

And while businesses will be closed, demand from customers continues, according to the owner of a Kings Highway nail studio — who said they’ve still been getting a half a dozen would-be customers each day calling for manicures and pedicures, despite having closed up shop earlier this week.

“We’ve been getting calls but we’ve been turning them down,” said the owner who only gave her name as Rita, and whose daughter translated from Chinese for her. “We were just scared and we didn’t want to put ourselves at risk.”