After being closed since March 17th when Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions went into place for salons, Snoqualmie business Lula Ruby announced it had made the tough decision to close its doors permanently.
Lula Ruby opened in December 2012 in the retail area on Better Way Loop, across from the Snoqualmie Fire Station.
According to the closure announcement to clients:
“As we approach the June 1st possible reopen date we must sadly accept the reality that we will be unable to reopen. We are deeply saddened to share this news and hope you understand that it has been a hard and painful decision that is largely out of our control.”
Lula Ruby owner and Snoqualmie resident Angela Favero noted two main reasons for closing: 1) the health, safety and well being of staff, clients and families and 2) the potential financial impact.
Although Washington state has yet to issue reopening safety protocols for salons, Angela spent time researching such guidelines in other states. She said after doing so it became clear it would be difficult to safely reopen.
Those salon safety rules include: social distance for staff and clients; working scattered schedules to limit number of people at any one time in the salon; no double booking/one client at a time; limited shampooing and blow-drying; temperature checks for clients and staff; contact tracing for staff and clients; mandatory face masks and face shields; no clients waiting in the lobby.
Angela commented, “How do we even start to safely go back to work? First, we touch people all day long. There will be no amount of PPE protection that will keep us safe. We must gear up like hospital staff. Who will we need to pay to get PPE, cleaning supplies, etc. I can’t even get the right amount of cleaning supplies for my home, let alone a business during these times.”
She explained the new regulations would inevitably mean working at a deficit, citing industry expert predictions that salons will only be able to operate at a 20-50% workload compared to pre-COVID numbers.
Angela said, “With no change in the cost of business, this makes no financial sense. We would be asking both employees and myself to take a huge pay cut.”
Lula Ruby was unable to secure a PPP loan, but Angela said she’s not sure she would’ve taken it at this point – noting the complex rules of the potentially forgivable loan making the risk of default too high for her business model.
She commented, “What if we cannot go back to work in 8 weeks? That free money now is a loan that I must pay back, putting me in even more financial jeopardy. My staff may not come back since they are all making much more money on unemployment right now.”
She said it is her belief that the PPP ‘loan’ is the federal government’s way to keep people off unemployment, “period.” She also noted the amount of money her business has already paid in unemployment taxes that currently allows her staff to draw unemployment.
Favero said unlike restaurants and small stores, salons have had no opportunity to make money during the two-month closure – and she’s gotten no relief from her landlord.
She commented, “We have been very communicative and transparent with our landlord about the effects that the closure has had on us. We have been told they will not release us from the lease and full amount of back rent will be due upon reopening.”
Angela doesn’t see any way to pay back that [rent] debt, currently over $10,000, when only operating at half capacity.
The final ‘nail in the coffin,’ though, was when the salon’s Business Interruption insurance claim was denied.
Angela sees no viable path to success for her small business at this point – and doesn’t feel there is any benefit in putting herself at more financial risk. Lula Ruby would need a loan just to get back up and running and there’s also risk of another [COVID] shutdown in the fall.
She commented, “It doesn’t make any sense…This is a very unfortunate time for all. We have spent time helping our staff navigate through this and fully support them in their next venture.”
Angela wanted to share her story to help the community better understand how devastating the the stay home order has been on local small businesses.
Good Luck Angela – and the whole Lula Ruby stylist crew. Wishing you all the best.