East Ham barber disappointed by Covid-19 lockdown easing roadmap

patrick phipps

Patrick Phipps of Cut Above the Rest in East Ham said it wasn't right barbershops and hairdressers couldn't reopen sooner. - Credit: Patrick Phipps

A barber shop owner has criticised plans not to allow people to have a haircut for at least another seven weeks.

Patrick Phipps of Cut Above the Rest in Barking Road, East Ham, spoke out following prime minister Boris Johnson's announcement that hairdressers, barbers and salons could open from April 12.

"I don't think it's right. It's sad," he said. "Barbers, hairdressers and beauticians have been waiting to go back to work since before Christmas and now we have to wait until April 12.

"Our work is not as dangerous as going [to supermarkets] or to the pub. We should open in March."

cut above the rest

Patrick took the keys to Cut Above the Rest 30 years ago. - Credit: Patrick Phipps

He argued barbers can control customer numbers better than larger stores and already have measures in place to protect people from risks after reopening from the first lockdown.

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"We had so much plastic it was like a butcher's. Plastic everywhere," Patrick said. 

He called for increased enforcement of restrictions such as mask-wearing in shops, but warned some barbers might be forced to break the law, offering trims on the sly to eke out a living.

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The PM confirmed his four-stage plan to ease England's coronavirus restrictions on Monday, February 22.

Non-essential retail, personal care premises - such as hairdressers and nail salons - libraries and museums will be permitted to reopen from April 12 at least five weeks after schools reopen to all pupils.

Patrick argued premises should be opened sooner to take advantage of the school rush, but that it was helpful to have a date set.

The 50-year-old opened Cut Above the Rest 30 years ago and said before the pandemic business was steady.

However, following the first Covid-19 lockdown in March, Patrick was forced to let two barbers go. Rent from chairs and a tattoo studio based at the premises also dried up.

"I never felt so scared. I thought we were done," Patrick said.

Things gradually picked up when the first lockdown ended, but the second almost destroyed the business.

Government grants totalling £6,000 helped, but weren't enough to cover rent and bills. Patrick drew on savings to keep afloat.

On the future, he said: "When you get knocked back, it's not about how hard you get hit. It's about how strong you are to pick yourself up."

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