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Phase One in DC brings excitement, concerns from business owners

Ahead of Phase One starting on Friday, at least one hair salon owner says they're balancing a desire to reopen and concerns of possible COVID-19 exposure.

WASHINGTON — Inside the Michael Anthony Salon on Capitol Hill, clear plastic shower curtains hang from the ceiling, while a shield serves as a barrier between customers and a staff member at the store's computer.

Each seat inside is now six feet apart and the amount of cleaning supplies and disposable towels has multiplied.

For the salon and many other businesses around the District, the precautions are all part of being able to reopen for Phase One on Friday.

After being closed for two months, owner Mickey Bolek said that the preparations meant business could slowly start to see progress.

"It’s been very challenging, very frightening, very stressful," he said. "To sit back and think I might lose my life’s work over this was incredibly frightening to me." 

Due to orders from the district, the salon was forced to close its doors in mid-March.

While Bolek was able to sell hair products on the side, he said that relief finally came when he was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan with the Small Business Administration.

However, despite business slowly returning on Friday, he said he was concerned about reopening and facing possible exposure after his battle with cancer earlier this year. 

"I’m very excited," Bolek said. "At the same time, I’m very scared. I’m scared that this is still around and this virus is still here."

Hair salons will be allowed to take customers in on Friday but only if they schedule an appointment.

RELATED: 'Everything you've done in the past: Get rid of it' | Residents, retailers prepare for new DC in Phase 1 reopening

According to Bolek, customers at Michael Anthony Salon will need to wait at the front door for a staff member before entering. 

They'll also need to undergo a temperature check and sign a waiver form before their appointment.

Bolek added that his team will be in charge of sanitizing chairs and equipment after every meeting.

"We’re only allowed to have one client per stylist at a time," he said. "I definitely think it’ll be better than sitting at home and getting rusty.”

Due to the guidelines and the salon being unable to have a full staff inside, Bolek said some stylists had to be laid off.

Hair salons are one of several businesses able to reopen with limitations on Friday.

D.C. restaurants will be able to offer outdoor seating with six feet of separation, while retailers will be able to offer curbside or front door pickup.

At the Mia Gemma jewelry store, owner Irene Barbieri said she would stay closed.

After seeing business fall around 75% in April, she said that the pandemic was leading to a greater reliance on online sales.

"We’re building up our website, we’re adding more product all the time," Barbieri said. "We’re making it easier for people to purchase. You have to be able to adapt and adapt quickly." 

Bolek said Phase One offers some hope for businesses during a troubling time.

"We’re just going to have to deal with it and move on with it and get used to the new normal," he said. 

RELATED: Montgomery County will begin reopening June 1, restrictions still in place

RELATED: 'Everyone will need to wear a face-covering,' Virginia Gov. Northam says

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