At Salons, Combining Suds and Scissors

IMG_7476Helen Zhang Alx Alvarez is a stylist at Salon 13, at 212 Avenue B, one of several salons in the East Village that offers customers wine or beer while they wait.

I am finally sitting in the hairdresser’s chair, after nervously picking off most of my blue nail polish. My anxiety has been building for about two days since I made my annual appointment to cut my tailbone-length locks. In the past too many too-generous inches were chopped off without warning, so it’s hard to keep my cool once those pointed scissors come at me.

But stylist Alx Alvarez at Salon 13, at 212 Avenue B, assures me that she had been cutting hair for 20 years, styling the likes of Tommy Lee and Kate Hudson. Despite the fact that she was slugging down a 40 of Yuengling beer, I decided to trust her. To help me relax, she offered me a Coors Light.

Ms. Alvarez wasn’t just being kind. Salon 13 is one of several salons in the East Village where customers are offered a selection of wine and beer while they’re waiting to have their hair styled.

Local salons have been riding this intoxicating wave for years now. And aside from eliminating those pre-haircut jitters, stylists said that offering a glass of wine also helps lubricate the social milieu and, in the words of Ms. Alvarez, helps customers “chill out a little bit.”

Customers seem to agree.

“I wasn’t expecting the wine, but it was a perfectly welcome surprise,” said Jordan Urban, a local who got her cut at Whistle on East 10th Street. “It made the whole experience more social and comfortable.”

IMG_7456Helen Zhang For years, hair stylists in the East Village, including those at the Blind Barber (above), have offered customers wine and beer.

Although a formal wine and beer service would require hair salons to obtain a license to serve alcohol, the informal offerings by stylists are usually treated as a courtesy to customers that often goes unscrutinized.

Places like the Blind Barber, which opened on East 10th Street this summer, put a dramatic flair into their offerings. The space looks like an old-school barber shop until you reach the wooden sliding door on the back wall that leads to a cavernous speakeasy-style bar and lounge (technically open all day). Come nighttime, no one’s coming in here to get a hair cut.

“I wanted to create a place that actually reflected what a barber shop used to be and that was a place for guys – and girls for that matter – to just kick it,” said Jeff Laub, a co-owner of the Blind Barber. “You know, talk about music, girls, all that.”

During my visit to Salon 13, Ms. Alvarez had successfully shed six inches from my hair (and performed some extreme layering) all over the course of 30 minutes and that one Coors Light. We had also done quite a bit of “shop talk.” We had both studied in Paris and liked hip-hop. She also turned me onto the latest indulgence of her reality TV binge: “Jerseylicious” on the Style network.

“You’re having another beer, you’re starting happy hour with me,” Alx said as she started my blowout. With Biggie Smalls blaring in the background and the conversation flowing, I felt like I was at a bar. I was having fun, and more important, I forgot that I had just cut off a year’s worth of locks.

Here are a few other shops where you can get loosened up while waiting for (or during) your cut.

Salon 13
212 Avenues B
There’s almost always a six-pack of PBR or Coors Light chilling in the fridge, and a bottle of whiskey hides behind the reception desk for those special occasions.

Slate Salon
131 East Seventh Street
While you’re waiting for your appointment, Mark Heiner, the owner, will send you next door to Mini Bar, the café he owns, to sip on a 2008 Sterling Chardonnay from Napa Valley, or a 2008 Trapiche Malbec from Argentina and chat with café regulars.

Maria Mok
411 East Ninth Street
Owned by Ms. Mok and her husband, this salon serves wine from D’Argenzio Winery in Sonoma Valley exclusively. Why? The owner of the vineyard is a client, of course.

267 East 10th Street
The Blind Barber doesn’t cut women’s hair (yet), but fear not! Whistle is a salon just a block away. And you can have your choice of red or white, Black Box Merlot or Vezzo Pinot Grigio.