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Stay out of our hair

Vancouver should lift the ban on home salons

Imagine graduating from hair school and considering your employment options.

You can look for a full-time employee position; competitive to secure, and means renting a chair at around $1,000 per month at a salon. It can be a gamble without having the client base to not just cover that, but make enough to live on.

Alternatively, you could rent a commercial space, take out a business loan and open your own salon.

There’s a piece of the puzzle missing: being able to work from home.

While other cities encourage hairdressing from home, Vancouver has legislated the possibility away. According to the city’s home-based business license requirements, “No clients are permitted to attend the premises at any time,” and “There shall be nothing to indicate from the exterior of the dwelling unit or building that it is being used for any purpose other than its principal and approved residential use (no signage permitted).”

According to the City of Vancouver communications department, “Home-based businesses must operate with no impact on neighbouring residential properties hence the no signage or customers requirement.”

Other municipalities are more direct in banning the practice outright. According to the West Vancouver City bylaws, beauty salons and barbershops are not permitted to operate as home-based businesses. Meanwhile, physician offices are allowed in duplexes and multi-family complexes.

In other words, doctors can perform blood work and pap smears – but a hairdresser cannot put in a few highlights.

The provincial government only mandates that personal service establishments, “Keep client areas separate from any portion of the premises used as a residence (e.g., for food preparation, dining and sleeping, and pets),” according to the Ministry of Health.

That means unless individual cities add regulations the practice is permitted – as is the case in most other Canadian cities, and should be in Vancouver.

In cities with sky-high rents and commercial property taxes constantly on the rise, being able to operate from home would drastically increase the profitability of many small hair salons and aesthetics practices, and add another entry-level layer of opportunities.

Those hairdressers who cannot afford a chair rental or who haven’t secured an employee position at a larger salon would suddenly have a practical way to make money with their chosen career.

I’m not sure what these cities are afraid of. Those who outgrow the space will naturally move into a larger space as their business expands. But by regulating away the possibility of starting a business from home, we’re making it more difficult for them to succeed at all.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]