‘You can breathe better’: Local businesses react to mask-wearing changes


Local businesses are looking forward to how they will start opening back up

(WKBN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday eased indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside most places. They also do not have to wear masks outdoors while in crowds.

In Ohio, most COVID-19 restrictions will lift starting June 2, so local businesses are looking forward to how they will start opening back up.

Places like hair salons are bouncing back, along with everyone’s looks. After weathering the storm, hairstylist Beth Barry is ready for the new rules.

“I enjoy my job but I don’t want to work it six days a week,” Barry said.

Hairstylists had a rough time when the pandemic started. Beauty salons were closed by the governor for nearly two months and the stylists lost their source of income.

“I think the toughest part for us is the fact that we couldn’t come to work. We were just told, ‘You’re done,’ and we didn’t know what was going on or how soon we could come back to work,” Barry said.

It was a struggle. Barry has been a hairdresser for over 40 years. When stylists returned, there were new rules for sanitizing, clients wore masks and the big one: capacity was limited.

“What hurt us the most is the fact we couldn’t book clients in between, so our income was reduced. You’re standing here for 10-12 hours doing four people where you used to be able to do 8-12,” Barry said.

The business relies on a full schedule. Barry is excited those in-between clients will be allowed to be booked again.

It will take a while to implement the changes with the appointment book already set so far out, but the other changes will make a big difference.

“We’ll be able to book clients in between. We’ll be able to take the masks off, see the clients’ expressions while we’re doing their hair instead of just guessing, which was a tough one to do,” Barry said.

Anticipation is also high about returning to venues for live performances. Seats have been empty for over a year.

Many venues tried virtual formats, but it’s hard to get the same enjoyment from them.

Stambaugh Auditorium and the DeYor Performing Arts Center have been looking to rebook postponed shows and see who wants to come and perform.

One of those could be the symphony season, which is normally from September to May.

“There’s a lot of concert dates in the works, so we are moving forward to hopefully announce some seasons both here and at Stambaugh. Again, working with the different tours to figure out what their comfort levels are, what we’re able to do with local musicians and national musicians to get entertainment moving forward,” said Dani Dier, business manager at Stambaugh Auditorium.

That is a process. You can’t just start scheduling when the big-name artists are waiting to put together tours as they still deal with different rules in different places. Plus, artists have different comfort levels and so do people who will attend the concerts.

Also, when using Stambaugh or DeYor as a venue, the client chooses the rules. For example, the masks come off June 2, but there’s a graduation event on June 5, and the school still wants people to wear masks, practice social distancing and have a limited capacity.

Restaurants are also glad the governor served up new rules.

It has been about a 14-month wait for restaurants like Tiger’s Table in New Middletown, which did some remodeling during the pandemic.

Capacity has been limited under the health orders, too, roughly 50% for restaurants, and some had to install plexiglass if the backs of the seating areas were not high enough.

“We’re so glad because we can understand each other. We’re not mumbling all the time. You can breathe better. It’s so hot in the kitchen, you’re sweating, and it’s just been a job itself wearing the masks. So having them go away come June 2, it’s a godsend for people in the restaurant business,” said Joe Radman, with Tiger’s Table.

Tiger’s Table is getting its patio ready for the summer. They have room for about 30 people and want to plan more live music events.

But Ohio’s changes also bring some concerns — dropping restrictions could mean more business, and that means a need for more workers.

Tiger’s Table is looking to hire a few more waitresses and cooks to help in the kitchen.

Until June 2, restrictions like mask-wearing will still be in place, and once the restrictions are lifted, individual businesses can still ask people to wear face coverings.

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