March is usually the busiest time of the year for the Solid Gold Tattoo Shop in Elmont, as many people use their tax refunds to buy themselves a new tattoo. But this year, the business is facing a lot of cancellations as many New Yorkers self-isolate to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The parlor has taken precautions during the outbreak, according to tattoo artist Christopher Wilkie, such as having its artists use plastic sleeves and masks while inking their clients, but will now have to close.
On March 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all tattoo parlors, barber shops, hair and nail salons to close effective March 21 at 8 p.m. Any business that does not comply could face civil fines or even be shut down indefinitely.
Cuomo tweeted the directive at 8:48 a.m., stating “These temporary closures are not going to be easy, but they are necessary to protect the public health.”
Additionally, the governor ordered all "non-essential" businesses to close, effective on the evening of Sunday, March 22. Essential services include medical, police, fire, water, sewer and food, including restaurants, which he said would be allowed to continue offering takeout.
Cuomo said he knew the executive order would cause "disruption."
"I accept full responsibility..." he said. "There is no one else who is responsible for this decision."
As of Friday, there were more than 7,000 cases reported in New York, with 754 in Nassau County. Four people have died from the disease, Cuomo noted.
Due to this public health crisis, some salons and tattoo parlors have already shut down, including Coiffure’s By Genevive and Insight Hair Salon, both in Franklin Square, and Tattooing by Richie in Elmont. The latter business posted on Instagram and changed its voicemail greeting to notify customers of the closure, and told them to “be safe, wash your hands and cover your mouth.”
Others in the area, however, have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, to varying success.
Shaheen Shah, the owner of Fancy Cuts in Franklin Square, for example, said, “it’s like all business is totally dead. They’ve cancelled everything,” while Danita Foreman, owner of Elmont-based Lavish Beauty Salon and Spa said she has had a steady stream of clients.
But now that they are being forced to close, many of these local business owners wonder how their business and their employees will survive.
“It’s going to be hard to say what will happen,” Foreman said, noting that many of her employees are contracted, and it would be difficult to pay them while the salon is closed.
Making the situation worse, business owners said, is the uncertainty of how long the outbreak will last.
Wilkie said he thinks he would be able to survive if the parlor were closed for two weeks, beyond that, however, he said, “we’re depleting our resources.”
He gets paid per tattoo, he explained, and will therefore not be earning any income during the closure. At the same time, however, he still has to make mortgage and car payments, and take care of his two children.
The governor ordered the halting of any residential and commercial evictions for 90 days to help business owners and employees during this time.
But several local business owners wondered whether they would get any assistance while their businesses are closed. Linda Skaliros, the manager of the Century 21 real estate agency in Franklin Square, said she will not be making any money during this time because she works on commission, and Jay Coley, the owner of SLAYJ6Y Hair, said she is “a little concerned as to why we’re not getting any assistance as small business owners.”
County officials have created an email to respond to business owners who are struggling — SmallBusinessImpact@NassauCountyNY.gov —and have recommended that business owners apply for loans from the Small Business Administration.
The SBA has declared Nassau County a disaster region, County Executive Laura Curran posted on social media on March 20, and is now offering low-interest loans for small businesses affected by the pandemic. Business owners can apply for a loan at www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.
The problem with these loans, however, are that they would still have to be paid back, Forema said, and if she were to get one, “I’m always going to be behind.”
Instead, she suggested the government give small business owners grants for any lost revenue during the outbreak.
“We need to figure out a way where they could help us during this time,” Foreman said, adding that the government “has to keep people going.”
Otherwise, she said, it will be impossible for these businesses to keep running, although Coley and Rosa Hawkins, the owner of Di Rosa Haircare in Franklin Square, did not seem as worried. Coley said people will once again need to get their hair done once all of this is over, and Hawkins noted, “The beauty industry always bounces back, and we’ll work harder than ever.”