‘RE-OPEN ROC’: City Councilman/barbershop owner makes plea after orange zone closure

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“Change comes when people stand up and they speak truth to power,” says Willie Lightfoot

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — “I have a takeout restaurant in the same building. So they’re open, but I’m closed,” says City Councilman Willie Lightfoot, owner of ‘New Creations’ unisex shop, and President of the United Professional Barber and Cosmetology Association.

Lightfoot says he feels barbershops and other ‘appearance enhancement’ businesses are being targeted by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in the latest ‘orange zone’ declaration, which shut them down in the City of Rochester. Lightfoot is fighting to understand why.

“We are one of the most strenuously mandated professions,” he says.

With temperature checks, hand sanitizer, and contact tracing forms for customers, he says barbershops are not virus spreaders. In a statement today, the County Public Health Commissioner touched on that, saying:

“The Monroe County Department of Public Health has said for weeks that the majority of community spread of COVID-19 has come from small gatherings of people not wearing masks, physically distancing or following other proper guidelines. MCDPH regularly reports instances of possible transmission in bars and restaurants, but has not had to issue such reports for many other businesses to date. We continue to encourage our residents to follow the recommended guidelines, including wearing a face covering in public, limiting interactions with those outside your household, maintaining six feet physical distancing and regular hand hygiene.”

Dr.Michael Mendoza, Commissioner of the Monroe County Department of Public Health


Lightfoot says this week is one of the busiest times of the year for him, or at least it was supposed to be. “The day before Thanksgiving, to be ordered to shut down, is irresponsible.”

Lightfoot says the uptick in COVID case numbers was no surprise, and he feels Albany was unprepared. He says there was confusion surrounding the announcement, with poor communication by the state, county and city. 

“You had 75 people hospitalized November 4. You went to 268. That’s a 257% increase. That’s one of the highest increase in the state of New York, what happened? And if they knew what was causing it then why didn’t they stop it?” said Governor Cuomo at a press conference in Rochester Wednesday.

Cuomo said when it comes to orange zones, the lines are what they are. “You have to draw the line somewhere. Wherever you draw the line there’s always going to be someone on the other side of the street,” he says.

Lightfoot also wants to know what is supposed to happen after this shut down, whenever that is. “There is no plan for how we’re going to recoup our losses, there are no suggestions to us on what to do in the meantime,” says Lightfoot.

Lightfoot says many of his city customers are still going to get their hair cut, just not in Rochester. Their business will go to the suburbs. “Why these particular areas, and not the entire region?” adding, “So now, you just cut my knees off, literally.”

Lightfoot now has a petition online, asking the governor to reopen appearance enhancement shops, and provide some plan for businesses post-shutdown. You can find that petition by clicking here.

“Change comes when people stand up and they speak truth to power,” he says.

Lightfoot with former President Bill Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Mayor Lovely Warren when they visited ‘New Creations’ in April of 2016

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