The music at Biba salon in St Kilda on Monday morning can barely be heard over the phones. They’ve been ringing nonstop as desperate Melburnians try to snatch up any booking they can – for most, it’ll be their first haircut in months.
“It’s been nuts, we have been absolutely insane,” hairdresser Bianca Covelli says, one phone wedged between her ear and shoulder, the other clasped to her chest and she tries to type bookings into the computer.
On Sunday the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a partial reopening of Melbourne as case numbers continue to drop. As the city didn’t quite reach the required benchmark of less than five average daily cases, the majority of hospitality and retail restrictions stayed in place. But hairdressers were the exception and were allowed to open their doors from midnight.
“My manager said that after the announcement was made we had 250 bookings within an hour and today we have just been running around like crazy,” Covelli says.
“I think people are just happy they can come in. They have been feeling pretty shitty and it’s a good way to feel better.”
Biba Salon is not alone – hairdressers around Melbourne say they are now booked out for months.
Alyx Hitchins, theowner of Forma Salon in Elwood, says her email system nearly crashed during the premier’s Sunday press conference.
“We have been booked out basically until the end of the year,” she says. “I was so shocked, I didn’t think we would be able to open this time around.”
Hitchins’ salon has been closed for nearly six months out of the last year, so she’s relieved to have business come flooding back: “It’s all massive colour jobs, lots of women are desperate to dye their hair again. It’s exciting.”
Kim Gannon, the owner of Kid’s Cuts Elwood, spent the morning sitting in front of her calendar, trying to find a way to squeeze in all her clients.
“I’m trying to fit 100 days of people into the next week,” she says. “It’s just back-to-back-to-back for a month. When the announcement happened I had 60 texts straight away, and then that again on Facebook Messenger.”
Some Melburnians can’t bear to wait any longer and have been lining up outside barbers.
Jessica Trebilcock says she has been queuing outside Da Barber House in the outer western suburb of Melton for more than an hour, with three of her five children in tow.
“We missed out just before lockdown happened … They look like little wolves at the moment,” she says. “I didn’t account for the wait … I don’t even know if I’m going to take them to school after.”
Trebilcock says the lockdown has disrupted the family’s routine, which has been particularly tough on her kids.
“These three of my kids are actually autistic or ADHD, so they’re not used to having their structure broken … Hair getting longer is something simple to everybody else, but to them, they complained about it being itchy and tickling their eyes. They don’t understand the sensory feeling of it.
“Something as simple as a haircut and feeling good has been taken away from them. I just want to get it done as soon as I could.”
While hairdressers have lucked out with this round of restrictions easing in Melbourne, most other businesses aren’t so fortunate. Just a few doors down from the Biba salon on Acland Street is the Abbey Road Cafe. A worker there, Antonina Kirdyashkina, says the lockdowns have been tough on the large restaurant.
“We do rely on the atmosphere of the place and music, it’s much quieter but we are just doing what we can and staying open … we want people to look forward to something.
The cafe – which can seat upwards of 100 patrons – has a takeaway coffee bench set up out the front.
“We aren’t expecting anything any more, whatever is happening is happening,” Kirdyashkina says.
Further down the road, Tom Kay at the 95 Espresso and Bar says revenue is down by 90%. “It is hard, it’s really hard, it makes a difference,” he says.
He’s excited the venue may be able to reopen soon but, for the most part, the damage has already been done. “These extra two weeks, I guess it doesn’t really matter now. It’s already been six or seven months, what’s another two weeks?”
Sarah Vickery from Little Red Bluff Cafe in Elwood says although the business has been OK during lockdowns it has been hard to maintain a sense of community.
Sarah Vickery from the Little Red Bluff Cafe in Elwood said she is disappointed that hospitality can’t reopen for seated customers- but this has less to do with financials and more to do with the sense of community the cafe has lost doing take-away only. @GuardianAus pic.twitter.com/SSg4d1BP9O
— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) October 19, 2020
“On Tuesday we always had our old people who come and sit in a big group and they can’t do that, so I worry that that is making them much more isolated,” she says.
“We have a real community, we know everyone’s names and coffee orders. This takeaway system isn’t really what we are about. We want to serve the community.
When hospitality venues do open up Vickery says she’ll be ready – and prepared to shut down again if need be.
“With this virus, it’s just so unpredictable … We are so used to the dramatic changes, but we have a system to go back to so we will just have to roll with it.”