Cambridge and Deerfield salons and barbershops remain in a holding pattern, as one of the last types of businesses still shuttered by local COVID-19 public health rules.

Making sense of a succession of public health updates has been challenging this week, say owners of salon and barbershop owners in Cambridge and Deerfield say.

There had been optimism they might able to open on May 26, when a statewide Safer-At-Home order was set to expire.

Jesse Nelson, owner of Nelson’s Barbershop in Deerfield, began taking appointments online on May 12, and had a plan in place for social distancing at the shop in Liberty Commons. Nelson also had a plan to set aside time for senior appointments.

“I have many, many seniors that have also been long, long time clients and I don’t want to leave them out,” he said in a message to clients, shared with the News & Independent.

When the statewide Safer-At-Home order was ruled invalid on May 13 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a new Dane County-specific order went into effect within hours, that also was to expire on May 26.

Again, optimism was high locally that salons and barbershops could reopen immediately after Memorial Day.

Then, Dane County enacted a new order that went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday May 19.

It has no sunset date, instead progressing toward re-opening in phases as public health benchmarks are met. It mostly parallels the former state order, including ordering salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and spas to remain closed for now except to sell products and to prepare to reopen.

Once Dane County progresses to the next phase of “Forward Dane,” salons, spas, tattoo parlors and barbershops will be able to open at 25 percent of their normal capacity, with face masks being required on employees and recommended on clients, and the continued closure of waiting areas and by-appointment services only.

In even later phases, that will increase to being open at 50 percent and then at 75 percent capacity, with face masks still required on employees and recommended on clients but waiting rooms gradually opening back up and drop-in services gradually being allowed.

Nelson said in an email after the latest county order came down that he had turned off his online appointment site and will be rescheduling appointments already made.

He urged clients to “keep checking my site for updates.”

“I want to be open,” said Shirley Holzheuter, owner of Elegance and Design Studio in Cambridge, who has been in business for more than 30 years and questions how Dane County can put public health orders into place that are so similar to the statewide Safer-At-Home order that was invalidated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“I don’t understand how that is legal,” she said, adding that, “the last thing that any of us would want to do is to put our clients at risk.”

She said salon owners were already held, in non-pandemic times, to stringent sanitation rules and said she feels they could open safely.

She said the forced closure since mid-March has been “financially and emotionally devastating.”

Cambridge is divided by the Dane-Jefferson County line, but all of the businesses in the village are on the Dane County side, Village Administrator Lisa Moen said.

Adjacent Jefferson County has enacted no new restrictions on businesses and other public places, nor on gatherings since the statewide order was struck down.

Tera Schroeder and Jenn Brown, co-owners of Karizma Salon in Liberty Commons in Deerfield, Amy Coggin, owner of Salon 220 in Cambridge, and Becky Borchardt, owner of B&B Barber Shop in Cambridge, all also said they have no choice now but to wait.

Before Dane County’s latest order, Coggin said she was getting set to reopen on May 26, with a plan that included no walk-ins, extra sanitation of stylist stations and the salon’s entryway, and having masks available for clients.

“We are patiently waiting for things to return to some type of normal as soon as possible,” Coggin said in a message mid-afternoon on May 18.

“This is so crazy,” she said in a subsequent message later that day, after word came down of the county update. “It looks like we won’t be opening on Tuesday.”

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