ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The first signs of activity returned to Alaska’s largest city Monday as businesses slowly began reopening following closures because of the coronavirus.
“Well, thank God the beauty parlors are open,” Anchorage resident Cyndi Otto said while walking with her granddaughter near Earthquake Park.
Personal care services, like barber shops and nail and hair salons, were allowed to reopen Monday, as were restaurants. However, all are operating under strict guidelines intended to guard against spreading the virus.
The state allowed businesses to begin reopening last Friday, but Anchorage waited to allow businesses to get employees back and for some, to decide whether it makes sense to open yet. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state was working with communities. Anchorage's initial reopening phase tracked largely with that of the state's.
“There is hope, there is a future,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said Friday in unveiling the criteria local businesses must follow. “We have taken a punch, and we’re getting back up.”
But don’t expect the hustle-and-bustle that Anchorage exhibited in February — before the mandates restricting or closing businesses took hold — or even in November, before winter set in. Instead, only a few businesses were open.
From mom and pop diners to the swankiest eateries atop downtown hotels, all restaurants will require reservations or some other type of check-in for limited dine-in service. Wait lists are likely.
Regulations limit restaurants to 25% capacity, with more than enough elbow room. Tables must be spaced 10 feet apart, and only household members can sit at a table. Eateries can continue offering takeout service, as many already were doing when dine-in service was barred.
Simon Newall, who co-owns Sweet Basil Café with his wife Tanya, was ready for customers Monday morning.
“According to the mandates set by the governor and the city, we have our tables separated. We have a mask ready to talk to our customers, we can still do our take-outs and the in-house dining, as long as we meet the rules,” he said.
“I think the city and state have done a great job throughout this entire thing,” Newall added. “It’s just a matter of, let’s keep on going. Keep safe, and let’s feed everybody.”
Restaurants will also have to do a little paperwork on their customers.
A log with every customer’s first and last name and contact phone number must be maintained by the restaurant and kept for 30 days in case it’s needed for contact tracing. That's a step not required by the state rules but one required by the city.
All employees must wear fabric face masks, and customers are encouraged to wear them unless eating.
Barber shops, hair salons and other personal care services must begin taking reservations and not allow walk-in service. No waiting rooms are allowed.
Only one customer per stylist or technician is allowed in, and work stations must be 10 feet apart. Each stylist must wear a surgical mask, which cannot be reused, and customers must wear cloth face coverings.
Larry Love, the manager at Hair Doctors, was happy to be back to work as bills were piling up.
But his customers might be even happier.
“They don’t even mind the health regulations as long as they’re getting a haircut,” he said after giving an airman a high-and-tight military haircut. “They’re feeling a lot better and feeling good about themselves.”
Otto, a lifelong Alaskan who lived through the 1964 earthquake, said she felt the measures put in place by government were a bit Draconian.
“We are in the great state of Alaska, where there’s a thousand acres per individual. There’s no reason for us to be hunkered down in our homes after we’ve been hunkered down in our homes since November,” she said.