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A look back at COVID-19's impact on the service industry in metro Detroit

Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 10, 2021

Wednesday marks one year since Michigan's first reported COVID-19 cases, and a year ago, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency, which was followed by a slew of executive orders aimed at stopping the spread.

In the hospitality industry alone, around 200,000 jobs have been lost and 3,000 restaurants have closed for good.

Related: One year later: A timeline of COVID-19's spread in Michigan

At Aqua Salon in Royal Oak, which reopened in June after having to shut down temporarily, as all salons did, they are still operating at just 25% capacity.

As positive COVID cases continued to climb, it started on March 16 when Whitmer for the first time temporarily closed move theaters, gyms, casinos, and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery only.

Then, on March 22, salons and tattoo parlors were temporarily closed.

Related: How the COVID-19 pandemic exposed massive racial and social disparities in Michigan

“We could all understand it was necessary. Mostly unbelievable what was going on in the very beginning," Aqua Salon owner Julia Nicolaou said. “Going back a year ago, it was extremely scary.”

It was Nicolaou's stylists she was thinking about most a year ago. The staff at Aqua Salon are family.

“I’ve been in the salon industry for 20 years. I don’t know anything else other than this," she said.

On March 23, Whitmer signed a statewide stay-at-home order. It was extended three times, lasting through May.

Related: How one couple navigated their first-year engagement among a pandemic and closed border

After it was finally rescinded by June 8, bars and restaurants reopened with 50% capacity.

On Oct. 9, movie theaters and bowling alleys reopened with limited capacity, but on Nov. 18, the MDHHS started a "3-week pause" amid rising COVID-19 cases, closing indoor dining, movie theaters, casinos, bowling alleys and more.

By Dec. 21, bowling alleys, movie theaters and casinos could reopen with limited capacity, but indoor dining remained closed.

On Feb. 1, 2021, indoor dining resumed at 25% capacity, and it increased to 50% capacity on March 5.

For Ami Nicole Cooper, who is normally a concert photographer, she had to pivot.

She worked at a dispensary to make money and relied on her social media for additional income, which after years of covering concerts, she has a decent following.

Even then, she fell behind on rent.

“You can have a giant network, but not everyone is paying then and clout doesn’t pay your bills," she said.

At Aqua Salon, Julia is still struggling to make up lost revenue. Year-to-date, she's down 80%.

“For us, limited occupancy is like really hitting us hard because there are only so many people we can serve," she said.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.