Essential Changes Non-Essential Businesses Are Making to Reopen

Hair Salon

Tom Pennington/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Hair Salon
Tom Pennington/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

The New Normal

Whether you agree or disagree, a lot of states are easing restrictions that have kept businesses closed during stay-at-home orders. But that doesn't mean it will be business as usual — there are new safety requirements to meet and customers to woo back, even as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus. Here's a look at how 15 kinds of businesses are changing as they try to safely welcome back patrons.

"I Won't Know What to Do When I Get There"


As some states ease restrictions on gyms, one thing is for sure: Working out will look very different, with social distancing and rigorous cleaning procedures being instituted nearly everywhere. One Utah gym has ripped out its walls and extended its floor space to make sure all pieces of equipment are 6 to 8 feet apart. SoulCycle, the boutique spinning chain, is starting contact-free check-ins, mandated temperature checks for workers (and even patrons in certain states), and taking away free amenities like locker-room razors.



Will spas be able to find the same relaxation they did in a pre-pandemic world? Time will tell as they reopen. A day spa in Arizona has invested in an automated scheduling system that sends real-time updates to customers' phones so they don't have to linger in a waiting room. Ohio is requiring spas adhere to the same restrictions it's placing on hair salons, nail salons, and tanning facilities, including social distancing, masks for workers, daily symptom checks, and more frequent hand washing and sanitizing.

Hair Salon

Hair Salons

Shaggy hair and gray roots may be two of the most visible effects of social distancing, and plenty of people are more than ready for a haircut and a dye job. In states where salons have reopened, customers are likely to find themselves sitting at newly spaced-out styling stations, and instead of waiting inside before appointments, they may be sitting in their cars instead. One Brooklyn salon has moved its receptionist off site and ordered dividers to place between clients, and it will be requiring clients to wear masks.

Related: How to Cut Long Hair When You Can't Get to a Hairstylist



Shuttered restaurants have become symbolic of the pandemic, but dining rooms are slowly coming back to life in some states. Most everywhere, crammed-in tables will be a thing of the past as restaurants space out tables according to social-distancing guidelines. In states including Ohio, self-serve stations including buffets and drink stands will be gone, party sizes will be limited, and areas where diners may have previously congregated, like arcades, will be off limits. Servers and other workers will likely be required to wear face coverings, and hand sanitizer may replace your salt and pepper in California.

Clothing Store

Clothing Stores

While big-box stores have been spared closures as essential retailers, stores primarily selling apparel have shut down most places. As they reopen, shoppers in desperate need of a wardrobe update are likely to encounter limits on the number of customers allowed in stores, fewer or no fitting rooms, protective barriers at registers, sanitizer stations, and workers wearing masks. Gap will close restrooms, and Nordstrom will hold tried-on clothing for "a period of time" before returning it to the sales floor.

Construction Site

Construction Sites

While quarantined families may have enjoyed the peace and quiet of inactive construction sites, builders are slowly getting back to work. In New York City, the new normal means masks at all times, disinfecting tools more frequently, and new hand-washing stations. The city is also considering whether to allow 24-hour permits at some sites to allow fewer workers onsite at any one time. The state of Washington is requiring masks, gloves, and eye protection at all times, temperature checks at the beginning of each shift, social distancing at all times, and a myriad of other new restrictions.

Medical and Dental Expenses


As if most of us need another reason to put off that cleaning, now there's a pandemic to contend with. Dentists are trying to reassure nervous patients as they reopen, and many point out that robust safety measures have always been in place. In Texas, magazines will be gone from waiting rooms; appointments will be further spaced out; patients will be advised to arrive alone; and their temperatures will be screened before appointments. One Iowa dentist will alert patients via text that their appointment is beginning so that they can wait in their car, not inside the building; require staff to wear face shields and gowns; and allow extra time between appointments for further sanitization.


Veterinarians and Pet Groomers

Whether your pet needs a checkup or a haircut, vets and groomers are operating with many of the same precautions as dentists and other appointment-based businesses. Ohio vets that have recently reopened are encouraging pet owners to wait in their car, even as their pet is treated inside, with checkout over the phone instead of in person. The situation is much the same at a Kentucky dog groomer's shop, where customers have to wear masks in the unlikely event they even make it inside the building.

House for Sale

Real Estate

The housing market might not be booming quite the way it was pre-pandemic, but people still need to buy houses, with real-estate agents to represent them. While virtual tours and Zoom consultations might remain the norm for some, others might find house shopping edging closer to normal in states where the industry is reopening. In Michigan, only four people will be able to be at a sale property at one time, and masks and shoe covers will be required on tours. Florida Realtors is urging agents to rearrange their offices to accommodate social distancing and minimize shared spaces, plus limit offices to 10 customers, agents, and employees at a time (or fewer in smaller offices).

Car Dealership

Car Dealerships

Few people relish setting foot on a car dealer's lot and sitting for an eternity in the finance office, but the pandemic may finally be eroding the industry's long-standing resistance to digital sales. And as showrooms reopen for in-person business, sanitizer stations and social distancing will likely be the norm. Texas dealerships are taking a number of measures including covering and sanitizing steering wheels and seats, spacing out chairs in waiting rooms and other areas, and taking workers' temperatures before their shifts.

Joel Carillet/istockphoto


They never technically shut down, but airlines are hurting in a big way as COVID-19 has brought all but the most essential travel to a screeching halt. If air travel is in your future, don't be surprised to find nearly empty airports and planes, social distancing requirements in agent and boarding lines, more sneeze guards, constant disinfecting, and self-scanning of tickets. In the future, some experts foresee more dramatic measures like completely touchless check-ins and even thermal scanners that will flag feverish passengers.

Don't Procrastinate on Accommodation


States are starting to loosen restrictions on the hard-hit hospitality industry, and the nation's largest chains have announced a slew of new safety measures to try to reassure skittish would-be travelers. Aside from increased disinfection and cleaning, guests can express more express checkouts and cash-free payment options, disinfected room keys, social distancing in lobbies and other common areas, and sanitizing stations, among other changes. Some chains are going a step further, with Rosewood Hotels and Resorts requiring guests to submit to temperature checks, and The Wynn in Las Vegas doing the same through thermal imaging.

Movie Theaters
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images CC

Movie Theaters

Though movie theaters in most states are still a no-go, they are starting to open in Texas, and this once-relaxing date-night staple will certainly look a little different. One chain is implementing an "airport security-style check-in" where guests will be funneled through a line, asked about any symptoms, and checked for temperatures. In Oklahoma, where reopening is a bit further out, a Tulsa theater is installing plexiglass screens and reworking its butter dispenser so patrons can enjoy their popcorn contact-free.

Related: The Best Drive-In Movie Theaters Across America That Are Open During the Pandemic 

Theme Park

Theme Parks

The pandemic is a perfect storm for the nation's theme parks, where social distancing seems all but impossible, but that won't stop companies from trying once they get the go-ahead from local authorities. At Hersheypark and Six Flags Great Adventure in Pennsylvania, visitors will have to reserve tickets in advance, and the former park is also considering ride reservations, line management, and hand sanitizer stations. And while Disney World and Disneyland have not yet tipped their hands regarding COVID-19 plans, Disney Shanghai has reopened with all guests and staff wearing masks, no up-close character encounters, social-distancing markings in ride lines, online-only tickets, and a 30% capacity limit.

Golf Course

Golf Courses

Golf courses have been among the luckier venues during the pandemic, and all states are now permitting some form of the sport for the first time in nearly two months. In New Hampshire, the last state to allow courses to reopen, tee times are longer to encourage more space between golfers, and they must be booked over the phone instead of in person. Only single riders are permitted in golf carts unless golfers are from the same household, and clubhouses are closed. Massachusetts, another state that has been among the last to lift its ban, is instituting similar measures but disallowing carts.