On the outside looking in: Businesses still waiting to take part in the re-opening of Texas

HOUSTON – The sounds of saws have temporarily replaced the whirring of tattoo needles inside Texas Body Art.

Johnny Jackson, who owns the northwest Harris County tattoo parlor, is re-configuring its interior to comply with anticipated social distancing changes should he be allowed to re-open in the next two weeks.

“We’re going to break all of this up and turn it into more private distanced stations, just to be safer. We’ll have the plexiglass, it puts the artist in a contained spot with the client versus them being all side by side in chairs getting tattooed,” Jackson said.

The supplies and labor for the unexpected re-model were donated by clients, family and friends.

“We don’t have (the) income to make these changes, so we have to get this done just to be able to open and make money,” he said.

Jackson said he was disappointed when tattoo parlors weren’t part of the governor’s list announced Monday as the next round of businesses to re-open in Texas.

"It would have been safer to open smaller places and let us get back on our feet and see how it goes from there and then go to another phase," Jackson said.

Gov. Greg Abbott said experts didn’t’ believe it was safe enough yet to re-open places like tattoo parlors, nail salons, beauty and barbershops in Texas, but he was targeting May 18 for those businesses.

He said small business owners left out of this phase can’t afford to wait any longer.

“I think what really ticked us off, is that the movie theaters were opened. You can’t tell us that we can’t be open but then have movie theaters open. It has to be everything or nothing,” said Candice Weeter, a licensed hairstylist and franchisor of Tune Up - The Manly Salon. She also operates 48 locations in the Houston area.

Weeter said she’s lost $1.8 million in sales since they were forced to shut down.

“Most of our hairstylists are single moms, and as a hairstylist myself that it really brought me to tears to know that these girls have no source of income,” she said.

Weeter wrote a letter to Abbott Monday after learning salons were left off the list Monday, saying because of their specialized training in cleaning and hygiene, they should have been among the first to come back.

"We spend about 75% of our time in school learning about sanitation, disinfectants, bacteria, how to control infectious diseases, and yet we are turned to the side," Weeter said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Abbott said the May 18 date could be moved up.

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