Denoting understandable exasperated tones, Monksland based entrepreneur, Robbie Connaughton, who opened Barber Bobs in the local community in 2012, spoke with the Athlone Advertiser this week noting his continued frustration as a date for reopening his popular business remains unclear amid the current Covid-19 uncertainty which continues to detrimentally impact all sectors of daily life.
Barber Bobs has welcomed trade for a mere three months since the imposition of public health restrictions in March 2020. With six staff members all striving for a return to regular working hours, Robbie is imploring upon the Government for business reopening clarity.
“I closed Barber Bobs in March of last year in solidarity with the national effort to ‘flatten the curve’. At that time not once did it enter my head that almost 12 months later the doors would still be closed.
“I reopened when permitted having put considerable time and money into additional public health measures to ensure customers and staff were safe with no outbreak linked to Barber Bobs during the time we were open,” Robbie remarked.
With such uncertainty remaining, Robbie has formally written to the Government requesting that barbers and hairdressers be allowed to open for a two week timeframe which would enhance the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and also negate the growth in black market activities for such services.
“I believe this proposal should be given consideration given the nature of the negative impact on people’s mental health resulting from not being able to obtain a haircut, which for some is a heavy burden on their wellbeing during already difficult times.
“Opening for a two week period would also address the ever growing black market for barber and hairdressing services which is causing an increase in the household transmission of the virus,” Robbie stated.
As he awaits a response to his proposal from the Government, Robbie is of the view that within an industry which employs approximately 25,000 personnel, there are those who cannot continue to survive on the PUP payment alone with ongoing expenses to meet.
“You cannot get a haircut online. Many within our industry cannot survive on the PUP payment alone, which will create a temptation to accede to the growing pressure from customers to cut their hair. The longer the current situation prevails the more the temptation will grow to agree to the requests from customers,” Robbie added.
With business restriction speculation remaining rife, Robbie believes that Barber Bobs may not reopen its doors to customers until May at the earliest but is adamant that those frequenting barbers are extremely well protected from the threat of Covid-19.
“I understand and appreciate the seriousness of the evolving situation with regard to the pandemic, but the reality is that customers frequenting barbers and hairdressers are extremely well protected from Covid-19.
“We are one of the few sectors within the hospitality and retail sectors where both customer and staff member are wearing a mask for the entire duration of the visit. This, is along with hand sanitisation at entry and exit and the additional cleaning protocols that have been put in place, reduces the chance of virus transmission on our premises. Our industry has long been familiar with need for sanitisation which pre-dates Covid-19.
“While I understand that it is difficult to introduce different rules for different sectors I feel consideration should be given to the public health measures that have been put in place by those in our industry and the lack of outbreaks confirmed as being associated with barbers and hairdressers,” Robbie asserted.
As Barber Bobs approaches its ninth anniversary on March 9, Robbie looks forward to the day when he will reopen the business on a permanent basis to welcome the return of customers many of whom have been availing of the services at the Monksland business since 2012.
“Barber Bobs is at the heart of the community in Monksland. We know our customers, we know their families and we are there for them for all occasions in their lives, be it for their first haircut, a job interview haircut or the cut for their holiday or wedding occasion. When they sit into that chair it is like a form of therapy for many customers, they chat about families, jobs, happy occasions to the more troubling times of their lives and that is something which is now missing.
“We are a family focussed barber shop and we share in the events of our customers’ lives. I want the three-year-old to leave as happy as the 40-year-old. I want to see the scared toddler who comes through the door leaving with a haircut, a smile and a lollipop.
“My staff and I have missed the daily social interaction with our customers and look forward to being a welcoming business presence in Monksland in near future times,” Robbie concluded.