Newsom and San Diego mayor clear hurdles for outdoor haircuts, gyms and church services

Personal trainer, William Jones, watches over the equipment placed on the sidewalk for gym members.
The Last Real Gym trainer, William Jones, watches over the equipment placed on the sidewalk for gym members.
(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

New executive order allows businesses to move outside immediately, waiving need for permits for many businesses


San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an executive order Monday allowing gyms, barbershops, hair and nail salons, and other businesses to move their work to private parking lots outside.

The move waives any need for city permitting for businesses to shift out of doors, giving most businesses an immediate avenue to remain open during the stringent rules of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order, which also covers places of worship, grants access to private parkings lots. A proposed city ordinance would expand this to public street parking areas, but that idea first must receive approval by city council vote.

Faulconer was clear, however, that some personal services regulated by the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology must still comply with regulators in Sacramento before setting up shop outside.

Hours later, state regulators updated their rules for these businesses. Hair services, once banned from operating outside, are now allowed, as are services for skincare, nails and massage. Services that require a hygienic environment, such as tattooing, electrolysis and piercing, cannot be done outdoors.

Businesses across San Diego have already begun to set up tents and equipment outdoors, expanding services to parking lots, alleyways, beaches and rooftops. They join restaurants and retail shops, which were given an early OK to operate outside.

Gyms get creative with outdoor setups, moving to rooftops, beaches and parks

Some San Diego gyms were quick to move operations outside, beginning last week when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered their operations to re-close indoor activities. Certain businesses are better suited than others to move outside, especially those like The Movement Warehouse in Pacific Beach, which already has 2,500 square feet of private outdoor space.

Gyms with urban locations, however, might have trouble finding access to parking lots. Scott Lutwak, CEO of the luxury fitness chain Fit Athletic Club, said his location at DiamondView Tower on Tenth Ave has nowhere to go.

“It’s a 15-story building in the heart of downtown,” Lutwak said. “We don’t have as much flexibility in a location like that.”

Some downtown business owners are getting creative. The East Village location of F45 Training has struck a deal with Hard Rock Hotel San Diego to temporarily use its 8,700 square foot rooftop terrace for fitness classes. The space is usually used for events, but it’s currently sitting empty. The hotel is allowing the local gym to use the space free of charge.

Lutwak said Fit Athletic Club is sorting out some innovative ways to get outside, working with local government to expand fitness classes onto public spaces at Mission Beach. The gym’s Mission Beach location, also home to The Plunge pool, is expanding its programs held on the roof, a large open-air spot with ocean views.

Despite the creative ideas, Lutwak said Fit Athletic Club probably won’t make a dime in the coming weeks. The gym has frozen all of its 15,000 members’ monthly dues, and they’re not reinstating those charges just for the occasional outdoor class.

“We can’t continue charging monthly memberships for a gym we can’t provide,” Lutwak said. “This isn’t about making money. This is about surviving.”

Here’s what haircuts outside looks like

Getting a haircut outside is a little less straight forward. Certain personal services are regulated by a state group called the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which released a statement last week that personal services could not operate outside. Although that rule has now been amended, the state has issued guidelines for outdoor hair services.

Newsom acknowledged Monday that the regulations for these industries made moving outdoors “more challenging than they first appeared.”

The state agency that oversees licensing for these businesses announced Friday on Twitter that it was amendable to certain changes.

“We recognize the immense hardship hairstylists, barbers, manicurists and estheticians face in light of the COVID pandemic,” the tweet states. “Some services will be allowed outdoors.”

Kahlil Bryan, the former owner of K-Cuts Barber Shop in Rolando, said he can imagine a smooth transition to the outdoors. Bryan just sold his barbershop not two weeks ago to a colleague and fellow barber, citing the pandemic’s effect on his business.

“With all this COVID-19 stuff going on with closing, reopening, then re-closing ... there was just too much uncertainty,” Bryan said.

But Bryan will still work at the shop once it’s reopened and has ideas of how the new owner can shift operations outside. He has experience setting up outdoor pop-up barbershops. Every year during Christmas and back-to-school seasons, he gives away free haircuts to low-income children in Southeast San Diego through an organization called Love Your Chair.

“It’s not too hard to set up a barbershop outside,” Bryan said. “All you need is your clippers and your chair.”

Of course, that’s a bit of a simplification. K-Cuts will need to rent tents or buy canopies to shade the outdoor space, drag out extension cords, fans and purchase additional ring lights to make sure the space is well lit.

“We probably wouldn’t offer shampoos until we can be inside,” Bryan said.

The main hurdles he anticipates include weather and safety for his clients. After all, an indoor barbershop offers a controlled environment, away from interfering transient pedestrians or changing weather.

“Mother nature gives you what she gives you,” Bryan said. “It could be windy one day, which will be a hassle. Or if it’s too hot, that might be unenjoyable for everyone.”

All in all, Bryan and other business owners reached Monday seemed optimistic about shifting operations outside.

Lutwak, the gym CEO, was especially thankful for San Diego’s mild climate.

“We have a beautiful six months ahead of us,” he said.