Uni of York Students Targeted by Lockdown-Breaking Barbers

BA Barbers used anonymous social media accounts to advertise their services when operating barber shops was illegal.

(Image: Iwan Stone)

Students at the University of York were specifically targeted by a barbershop over the third lockdown, a York Vision investigation has found.

BA Barbers posted over 110 photos of separate haircuts on their public Instagram account between 4 January and 12 April 2021, the duration of the third lockdown under which haircuts contravened lockdown regulations.

York Vision has obtained screenshots of messages from the page to clients arranging haircuts, alongside booking confirmation messages, showing that the barbers made appointments during this period. Photographs of these haircuts soon after appeared on their Instagram page.

Some images posted between 4 January and 12 April clearly take place within University on-campus accommodation, although it is possible these specific images were taken outside of lockdown restrictions.

“They were making a killing out of it”, one anonymous client told Vision, with testimonies and messages from the barbers consistently stating that they were “fully booked” over this period.

One source told Vision that they were “pretty chilled” about hygiene, and “didn’t really follow any regulations, and nor did we”.

While another source reported that they did wear masks, and that their garage was well ventilated with doors and windows left open, those having their hair cut did not have to wear masks and images from the site often display barbers themselves without these precautions, with one client immediately being replaced by another.

On 6 January England entered a third national lockdown in response to what Boris Johnson called the “frustrating and alarming” spread of COVID-19 over Christmas. Only essential shops could stay open, with no one able to leave their homes except for medical needs, food shopping, and work you cannot do from home.

Gina Conway, whose London hair and beauty salons have been closed 238 days out of the last year, told the BBC that “because hairdressers can’t do takeaway or home visits or online haircuts we are all really struggling to cover our costs.” A survey of salon owners suggests that 56% are considering closing.

BA Barbers, run by local York lads, has used anonymous social media accounts to advertise their services.

On 24 February, during lockdown, when haircuts contravened lockdown restrictions, Hes East Memes, an account with more than 4,700 followers, posted “Looking for barbers? Hit up @ba.barbers”.

Captions on BA Barbers’ Instagram posts within the third lockdown, four times on February 6, alongside their page description, also make reference to the fact that their practice is “local to York Uni”, and that “you can come to us or we can come to you”.

While haircuts were originally partially carried out from their garage on Kilburn Street, sources claim that this was moved to solely “home visits” after they were reported to the council.

This concurs with Matt Boxall, the Head of Public Protection at the City of York Council, who told Vision that: “We received a complaint about haircuts being provided during lockdown. We wrote a letter and were assured that the practice would stop immediately.”

On 26 February, they also told clients that “we won’t be on insta for now”, pointing them towards their Snapchat.

Matt Boxall has told Vision that: “We will look into the complaint that it is now being run without the necessary precautions being taken and take the same stepped approach to enforcement that we have taken in similar cases.”

The haircuts themselves received mixed reviews: one source told Vision that “people weren’t furious, but it was a pretty lazy haircut”, while another described the barbers as “really nice guys, really friendly”.

Patrick O’Donnell, YUSU President, told Vision that: “The overwhelming majority of students have behaved responsibly and followed COVID rules over the last year to keep themselves, their friends and local community safe.” He urges those who are concerned about other students’ conduct to report it.

BA Barbers and Hes East Memes did not respond when Vision offered them a chance to reply to this article.