Eating a taco in a parking space is one thing. Getting a massage in the middle of the street is something else entirely.
Starting Tuesday, Sept. 1, San Franciscans will find out just how much they love the outdoors, when personal services like hair and nail salons, barbers, and massage therapists will be allowed to resume business outside. When Mayor London Breed announced the new reopening schedule Friday, she also said that gyms and fitness centers will be able to reopen outdoors on Sept. 9. However, these businesses have already been operating outdoors since July.
“San Francisco led the nation and saved lives with our measured approach to re-opening,” Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said in a press release. “Our priority is moving forward with an incremental phased approach that helps us avert large outbreaks, avoids overwhelming our healthcare system, and lessens the possibility of more severe damage to our economy.”
Still, much confusion remains about how this phase of reopening will work in practice. According to the draft guidelines released Friday, all personal service providers and clients must wear masks. Hair and nail clippings must be quickly gathered and disposed of to prevent them from blowing into adjacent businesses. Massage therapists must change sheets and pillow cases between each client.
Salon owners expressed concern to ABC 7 about how they would do business amidst the smoke and wind, but were still grateful for the opportunity to reopen.
But no one was more confused than gym owners, as it’s not clear what, if anything, will change for them beginning Sept. 9. The draft guidelines do not include any mention of gyms.
When Mayor Breed announced the new reopening timetable, “everyone in the gym industry said no big deal, we already reopened,” says Dave Karraker, the owner of MX3 fitness who has been advocating for small fitness studios and gyms to be able to reopen indoors for personal training. Karraker believes only one gym, Fitness SF in SoMa, will be able to take advantage of the new regulations by turning their parking lot into a fenced, open-air gym.
According to new state reopening guidelines also released Friday, gyms in San Francisco are permitted to reopen indoors at 10 percent capacity. DPH would have to certify those new guidelines for them to take effect.
“We know it won’t be seamless to operate outdoors,” Mayor London Breed said in the press release accompanying her Friday announcement, “but we stand ready to support with programs like Shared Spaces and health and safety guidance so that people can get back to work while also protecting themselves and their clients.”
The Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to operate on sidewalks, streets, and in parks, could be crucial to allowing personal services to operate outside in a city as crowded as San Francisco. So far, the city has approved 1,215 Shared Spaces permits, including 6 full-block closures, on Grant, Valencia, 18th, Hayes, Gold Alley, and Irving.
On Monday, the city also began distributing PPE from the state to small businesses at Pier 29 and the Latino Task Force Resource Hub at 701 Alabama Street.
But as gym owners like Karraker know, “outdoors is not a panacea. We’re going full blast outdoors and revenue is still down 80 percent.”