Among the businesses impacted most by Saskatchewan's move to Step 2 of its reopening strategy are those designated as personal service businesses.
That broad category includes shops that provide beauty-based services, like Lucky Hair & Beauty Studio in Regina, which first opened its doors during the pandemic in late 2020.
Lucky Okurame, who co-owns the business that caters to the hair and style needs of Black clientele, said the first few months of operation have been particularly tough thanks to COVID-19 restrictions.
But he's hopeful for things to come — starting with Sunday, when the second stage of reopening begins and capacity limits are lifted for personal care businesses (with some physical distancing guidelines remaining in place).
"We're looking to increase [our capacity] a little bit more — 70 per cent capacity would be our first step," he said. "Even though we'd follow the government restrictions, we still need to observe what the situation is like around us."
Okurame said he hasn't yet seen a rush of new bookings for Sunday and beyond, as the studio is continuing to operate as though Step 1 of Saskatchewan's roadmap is the norm. His business hasn't expanded its reservation system just yet.
That means the studio, as of Saturday, was still operating at 50 per cent capacity — as it has since it had opened in the Queen City.
Okurame said he wasn't able to hire the number of employees he wanted when he opened and was forced to reduce the number of workstations he had originally hoped for to comply with COVID-19 rules.
Because Lucky Hair & Beauty Studio opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Okurame said there were some subsidies and grants his business couldn't access.
Some services at the studio — like those involving grooming beards, for example — were also completely cut, he said.
Okurame said he'll hold off on those kinds of services until COVID-19 restrictions are virtually gone — and even then, whether they're offered will be up to individual staff or the customer's comfort level.
Once restrictions are entirely lifted, he says he'll be able to bring on the staff he originally hoped to hire when the shop opened last year.
Step 3 of the reopening plan will remove virtually all restrictions. On Saturday, the province set July 11 as the tentative start date for that third stage.
But Saskatchewan's quick progression through its step-based reopening plan is exciting to Okurame, and he's encouraged by the provincial vaccination rate.
"It's been over a year now and everybody is tired. The kids are tired. Our old parents are tired," he said.
"Everybody's tired of putting on a mask and living this un-normal life. It's not something we can get used to.
"We need to trust the system and trust our health professionals and get vaccinated for us to have full capacity again — and for us to live our normal life."
LISTEN | Regina couple running hair and beauty studio find success in catering to Black community members: