Aurora Manzo has owned Divas Aka Beauty and Barber Shop for the past 12 years. She now has to set up outdoors during the new order that was issued by San Benito County. (Juan Reyes)

It’s been a rough week for Aurora Manzo, owner of Divas Aka Beauty and Barber Shop, as she’s had to transition yet again to one of the new Covid-19 orders announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom last week released a new guidance specifically for outdoor operations for personal services, hair salons and barber shops.

Manzo had her green canopy set up the afternoon of July 23 on what used to be the parking lot to her business located at 696 Fourth Street.

“This is only my second haircut,” said Manzo expressing that business has slowed down significantly. “How am I going to come up with the rent? You just can’t.”

Alfredo, who chose not to give his last name, was that second client of the day and he said it’s been challenging for him to find an open barber shop in town since the order took place. 

“I kept looking around and not until today I found a spot,” he said.

New guidelines say that outdoor operations may be conducted under a tent, canopy or other sun shelter with at least one side open to allow outdoor air flow.

The guidelines for outdoor hair salons and barbershops include that employees and customers have to wear masks the entire time. Businesses must create an outdoor reception area where guests can check in.

Manzo asked the county if there were any exceptions to allow her to work indoors since it would be just herself and a client, but she was denied. She said cutting hair outside is risky to begin with, especially because the strong winds can blow away a weighted down canopy.

“How do they expect us to serve our clients under the sun?” she said. “If I move to the shaded area of the parking lot then I’ll definitely get kicked out because that’s not my space.”

Manzo said it’s difficult because the landlords aren’t content with business being conducted outdoors. She mentioned there’s been little to no assistance to help pay the rent, which is currently two months past due. 

Manzo is running out of options and she mentioned there hasn’t been much help for her. She applied for a loan through the Small Business Administration since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Manzo said she was offered a loan of just $1,000 and she still hasn’t received it. She also mentioned that several banks offered her a loan based on what she can qualify for.

“I told them to hold off because I want to see if this situation continues or else I might have to step away,” she said. “I’ll turn in my keys and I’ll have to do house calls because we don’t have another way of providing services.”

Manzo said she wants to believe that Covid-19 doesn’t exist but at the same time she mentioned that they still need to be precautious.

“If we get [Covid] then we’ll get it whether we’re outdoors or inside,” she said. 

Alfredo said he’s not as afraid of the virus as many people are but he’s also taking extra precautions whenever he’s out and about. 

“In reality, it’s one of those things that we ask if it’s real or not,” he said. “But like I said, we still have to be precautious about it and move forward.” 

Manzo said the shelter-in-place order and other orders that affect the mom and pop businesses throughout the country are not convenient for them.

“Why does it affect us and not Walmart or Safeway?” she said. “Look how many people are inside the store and they don’t have to sell their merchandise outdoors. It’s the same thing, one business is the same as the other.” 

Alfredo said it affects the lower class people because the large corporations stay open and the mom and pop shops shut down.  

Manzo said she understands grocery stores are an essential business because everybody needs food but she claims there’s still a large crowd of people inside the store. She mentioned that Target and Safeway both had employees that contracted Covid-19.  

“They’re social distancing but it’s still a massive amount of people,” she said.

Manzo said she doesn’t doubt that the virus is out there, however, she doesn’t believe it’s as bad as public health officials paint it. As a result, the small businesses are disappearing and it’s deteriorating the economy, she said. 

“What are we going to do when we don’t have jobs and run out of money to buy food or pay rent?” she said.

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