That’s what Jose Velazquez, the owner of A Toda Madre Tattoos, said when he found out that he could reopen his tattoo parlor. Like many other owners of “non-essential businesses,” he was forced to close his doors in March because of the statewide shutdown.
Closing shop was a devastating blow to Velazquez and his staff, especially because no one knew when they would be able to get back to work. It wasn’t until phase two was announced late last month that he could breathe a sigh of relief; he and his employees could make a living again.
Jesus “Chuy” Gutierrez, the owner of Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen, was also excited about the implementation of phase two. Because his restaurant was considered an essential business, he was able to remain open during the shutdown. Yet, he still suffered significant declines in customers. Nearly 75 to 80 percent of his business was gone.
Now, during phase two, he’s been able to open up 50 percent of his restaurant for dine-in instead of only doing take-out orders. Gutierrez said this has allowed him to get back at least 60 percent of his regular business.
“It’s been changing gradually,” he said. “Our dine-in and patio has been steady…and they’re still respecting social distancing and [wearing] masks.”
Business for A Toda Madre Tattoos has also done well so far. Velazquez said that they have been booked since reopening. A big reason for this is because they have to catch up on appointments made before the shutdown. He said they’ve all been trying to fit everyone in.
“Right now we’re a little behind,” said Velazquez. “On top of that, there’s new people coming… It’s a little complicated trying to get everybody in here as quick as possible.”
Though both businesses have been able to slowly recover over the past month, both owners stated they have a long way to go before making a full comeback. Gutierrez and Velazquez said it will take at least a year to make up for all the time and customers they lost.
Velazquez also expressed concern about the possibility of having to close again. With the recent spike in cases in Nevada, he worries that the rumored “second wave” will mean he has to close down again, and that means it would take even longer for him and his business to financially recover.
Gutierrez shared those concerns. With more people going to the reopened bars and restaurants, there’s a higher chance COVID-19 will be spread.
“[People] are tired of being home. I think they want to get out,” he said. “But there’s still concern with a lot of people around…we are being careful.”
This is why both businesses are being especially diligent about social distancing and cleaning measures. At Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen, they are continuing their frequent cleaning protocols and wearing masks at all times.
At A Toda Madre Tattoos, they already had special cleaning procedures, but they are taking additional precautions now as well. All employees have to wear a mask at all times, and every customer has to wear a mask and sanitize their hands before they can enter. They no longer accept walk-ins, so customers must have an appointment to come in. Each tattoo artist can only have one client at a time, and anyone waiting has to do so outside–not in their waiting area.
So, even with their doors open, Velazquez said things are definitely not the same as before.
“It doesn’t have that tattoo parlor feeling right now, you know?” he said. “Some people want to come in and pick out a tattoo, and then a parent or significant other wants to be here to help them out through the process. And they can’t do that.”
Gutierrez expressed the same thing. The summer season usually brings a lot of business, with many more people crowding outside his Midtown location for events. But with only 50 percent capacity, he said it’s been different, and it will continue to be for awhile.
“You know, it’s gonna be strange,” Gutierrez said. “It’s summertime…[so] we’ll see. I’m still very optimistic that it’s gonna be pretty good, but with all the special events cancelled, it’s gonna be interesting.”
Although, both owners said they were grateful they can remain open, and their customers were appreciative of that as well. Velazquez said he is glad he can actually come back, because he knows some businesses weren’t able to.
Regardless, Velazquez said it will take a long time not only to recover, but for things to go back to how they were–if they ever do.
“It needs to feel normal. It doesn’t feel normal yet,” he said. “It’s gonna take time.”
Bianca Wright is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she is studying to get a double major in Journalism and Spanish. Aside from being a lifelong writer, she has a passion for photography, traveling, and learning about other cultures. In the past, she’s written several news articles for Noticerio Móvil, a bilingual newspaper at UNR. There, she reported on stories related to topics like DACA and COVID-19 in Spanish and English. With her writing, she aims to find creative and respectful ways to help tell the stories of underrepresented communities in Northern Nevada.