California salon owner plans to defy coronavirus closure orders

A Solano County hairdresser plans to re-open her salon in defiance of COVID-19 closure orders.

"I want to put it out there, that we're not reckless, that we're not doing this carelessly," said Lia Rivera, owner of Hairendipity Salon in Vacaville. 

"I am safer here and my clients are safer here, than at the grocery store, the bank or the gas station," she said. 

On Tuesday, Rivera plans to resume cutting hair at the salon she opened two years ago.

It has grown to include four employees and ten stylists who are independent contractors.

Rivera says she has overcome many challenges balancing her business and family, as the mother of three sons under age 6. 

Defying the emergency directive is not a snap decision. 

"It is a little scary, I wouldn't have done this two weeks ago, and I wouldn't have done this one week ago," said Rivera. 

She was motivated now by Solano County's decision to extend its ban on "non-essential" businesses to May 17.

Beyond that date, there remains no certainty for businesses like hers.     

"We're entrepreneurs, we're creative, inventive, and we can think of so many ways to effectively stop the spread and still work with limitations," said Rivera. 

Under her safety plan, everyone in the 7-chair salon will wear a mask. 

The door will remain locked, and each stylist will have only one client inside at a time. 

Customers will wait in their cars to be let in. 

Stylists will work several chairs apart, wear full smocks, and sanitize surfaces and utensils repeatedly. 

For critics who find her re-opening irresponsible? 

"I would say, how?" responds Rivera. "Going to the grocery store, the gas station, where you mix with people you don't know, that seems irresponsible and scary." 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising new details for businesses on Tuesday. 

"We'll talk regions, we'll talk sectors, we'll lay out a strategy for phasing those things in," Newsom said during his Monday briefing. 

In order to ease constraints, he has suggested that many businesses will have to alter how they operate in order to maintain social distance.  

"If the data leads us and the indicators hold, then in the next few weeks we'll start making some meaningful modifications," said Newsom. 

To which Rivera expresses disbelief.

"Why isn't our local government talking about those changes, why isn't that happening now?" 

Tuesday is also the first day that Californians can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 

It is a new category of aid for gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed.

Rivera says that might have helped her and her stylists, had it not come so late. 

"It doesn't make sense to me that it takes that long to send help," she said, "while we are forced to fend for ourselves and figure this out."

Rivera says she has yet to receive a dime in assistance. 

"I've applied for every single aid that has been available."

As her losses rack-up, "to date I've lost approximately 15 grand," Rivera weighs the possibility of being cited for re-opening. 

"I think a thousand dollar fine is a drop in the bucket compared to what I'm guaranteed to lose if I stay closed." 

Rivera plans to work two afternoons a week, two clients each day, and let her stylists work as often as suits them.

She also says it's an open secret that hair services are happening, in private homes and secretively in salons. 

Rivera says she did not want to go that route, and decided to be open about her intentions. 

"These clients of mine that I've had for years and years, they are my family." 

Debora Villalon is a reporter forKTVU.  Email Debora at and follow her on Twitter@DeboraKTVU