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Business owners furious as Boris Johnson announces tattoo parlours, outdoor pools and indoor gyms must remain closed on July 4

Additional reporting by Sophie Bird

After the Prime Minister announced last week that many businesses would be able to reopen from July 4 as coronavirus lockdown measures continue to ease, some traders had cause to celebrate.

Fox Canfield outside Kent Tattoos in Dartford
Fox Canfield outside Kent Tattoos in Dartford

But others were left frustrated by the news that their businesses could not open alongside pubs, restaurants and outdoor gyms.

Tattoo artists across the county were hoping they could open on July 4 but have been left confused by the government's decision to keep them closed.

Fox Canfield, owner of Kent Tattoos in Dartford, said: "All of us here at Kent Tattoos feel totally left in the dark through this whole situation. In the last three months we've been given absolutely no insight into what is happening with our industry.

"Hairdressers and beauty salons have fallen into the same category as us many times throughout the Covid-19 crisis. But now hairdressers have been granted permission to open and we have not.

"We feel it's about time the tattoo and piercing industry is recognised as a separate industry from hair and beauty, so we have regulations that apply to us, instead of regulations which apply to hair and beauty salons which are loosely bent to fit us."

Sam tattooing fellow Kent Tattoos artist Marv in Dartford
Sam tattooing fellow Kent Tattoos artist Marv in Dartford

National petitions have been set up to urge the government to open tattoo studios. One currently has over 4,700 signatures and another has over 19,300 signatures.

The Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union (TPI), a branch of the Great British Union, was involved in a consultation with the government and has been urging it to allow studios to reopen.

Sam Andrews, owner of Permaneo Tattoo Studio in Gravesend, said: "The situation is very frustrating, especially with having practiced infection and blood-borne pathogen control since the start of our careers. I find it slightly insulting they're finding pubs to be cleaner and safer.

"It’s unfortunate we are not looked at as a professional industry and still perceived as a back street, dirty establishment."

Permaneo Tattoo Studio say they have precautions ready for reopening, such as mandatory PPE, regular handwashing, two metres left between work stations and daily cleaning with disinfectant.

Sam Andrews of Permaneo Tattoo Studios
Sam Andrews of Permaneo Tattoo Studios

Appointments would also be limited to two per day, with no walk-ins and clients understanding if they turn up to the studio sick they would lose their deposit.

The 32-year-old added: "Most of this is a normal routine for us to follow, safety and hygiene is paramount regardless of the pandemic. We are able to follow guidelines correctly without any issue."

Indoor gym owners are also confused about the inconsistency of the government announcement.

Jay Atkins, owner of Core The Gym in Maidstone, had been hoping to reopen on July 4, and has been working hard rearranging his premises to adhere to social distancing measures and keep customers safe.

Despite this, Boris Johnson announced that indoor gyms would not be included in the businesses given the go ahead to open early July.

The team are ready to get back to some kind of normality
The team are ready to get back to some kind of normality

Speaking to KentOnline last week, straight after the Prime Minister's announcement, Jay said: "I've got no words, I'm absolutely baffled.

"The lengths that we've gone to to reopen - we've literally restructured that whole environment.

"And we aren't even being given guidelines. We've got members' expectations to manage, they're looking to us for answers and we simply don't have them."

Jay believes gyms should be able to open along with other businesses like pubs and restaurants and said remaining closed could have a knock-on effect on people's mental health.

He said: "A lot of people manage their mental health through exercise and we offer a fantastic venue for that."

Jay's gym has been redesigned to adhere to social distancing rules
Jay's gym has been redesigned to adhere to social distancing rules

Live music shows no sign of returning in the near future, leaving venue owners to wonder how long they can survive.

Andre Dack, manager of The Ramsgate Music Hall, was incredulous at the government guidelines, which suggested theatres and concert halls will be able to open but not for lives performances.

Andre said: "These are real words, this is actual government guidance.

"Once again, venues have been stitched up by flimsy, vague nonsense. I'm not sure what they expect us to do - perhaps set up an indoors ice cream parlour? A sweet shop?

"The grassroots music sector has complied with public health guidance throughout the pandemic. There have been no live events since March 20.

Andre runs the Ramsgate Music Hall
Andre runs the Ramsgate Music Hall

"It's time for the government to offer genuine help to prevent the permanent closure of hundreds of venues."

The Music Venue Trust, set up by Mark Davyd, from Tunbridge Wells, has started a #Saveourvenues movement to put pressure on government to offer a financial support package to the currently dormant live music scene.

The campaign states more than 400 venues across the country are at risk of permanent closure, including Elsewhere in Margate.

The co-owners of Elsewhere wrote on their site: "Our venue faces closure as we are expecting to be closed for a significant period of time and with limited income we will not be able to afford to pay all our ongoing business costs.

"Despite grants from the government, we have not received any support from our landlords and as things stand we will be severely struggling if we are closed past June."

Elsewhere is part of the vibrant live music scene in Thanet
Elsewhere is part of the vibrant live music scene in Thanet

Swimming pools were also among the businesses told to remain closed on July 4 but pressure is mounting against the government to reverse the decision.

Swim England has launched an 'Open our Pools' campaign, believing that under specific social distancing guidelines pools could still open and keep swimmers safe.

The campaign is also pushing the government to announce a date as to when pools could be allowed back open.

But one outdoor pool in Medway has already made the decision to remain closed for the rest of the summer.

The Strand swimming pool, a seasonal attraction in Gillingham, will remain shut due to safety and the difficulty surrounding social distancing.

The Strand, on Pier Road, Gillingham. Picture: Steve Crispe
The Strand, on Pier Road, Gillingham. Picture: Steve Crispe

A statement from Medway Council read: "We have taken the difficult decision not to open the leisure pool or paddling pool this year as it would be difficult to put social distancing measures in place to help keep residents safe and stop the virus from spreading."

Peter Wright, part of the Friends of the Strand Pool group, said they are concerned of the effect of a long closure on the finances of the attraction.

He said: "We clearly understand that it has not been possible to open before the end of the season but hoped that there may be a few weeks that it could open before the end of the season.

"Unfortunately, Medway Sport have announced that they do not plan to open the Strand Pool at all this year

"We think that this is premature but do recognise that opening, once allowed by government, would bring some challenges."

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