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A Seattle barbershop defies orders to remain closed during coronavirus — and customers line up

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (Office of the Governor/Flickr)

Stag Barber & Styling in Snohomish has been open since May 1, and owner Bob Martin believes he has a right to defy Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to remain closed, in part because he served his country.

“I served several years in the Marine Corps and I’m not going to put up with this crap,” Martin told The (Everett) Herald, by way of explanation. (Martin would not speak to reporters on Tuesday.)

Martin is following the lead of Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, who last month said he would not enforce Inslee’s stay-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, calling the order unconstitutional and damaging to the economy, and to families. Two recall petitions against Fortney have been filed in the time since.

This, in the middle of a pandemic, when Snohomish County has reported 2,818 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 132 deaths, per Washington state’s coronavirus data.

Last Friday, the Washington State Department of Licensing suspended Martin’s cosmetology operator license, which is valid through June 2021, and served him with a cease-and-desist order for doing business without a salon shop license, the Herald reported, adding his license for the shop expired March 10, 2017.

Also Friday, the Herald reported, the Snohomish County Health District sent Martin a certified letter ordering him to stop seeing customers or face possible criminal charges.

If Martin refuses, he could face fines and revocation of his barber and business licenses, and further action from the state Attorney General’s office for review for a Consumer Protection Act violation, but only as a “last resort,” according to guidelines released by the Governor’s Office.

But on Tuesday, the shop’s “open” light was on and customers, mostly men and boys, sat in chairs set up outside, waiting for a $20 haircut or a $10 buzz cut. There was a sign-in sheet, and a young man stood by the door, calling customers in and keeping reporters out.

Inside, customers were seated in three chairs, each draped in American-flag gowns. No one — inside or out — wore a mask.

Few of those in line wanted to say anything, save for a mother with two sons. They were only there, the woman said, because the boys wouldn’t let her cut their hair.

“My dad did this,” one of the boys said, pointing to his crooked bangs.

But John Alcorn of Arlington, one of several men waiting for a cut, agrees with Martin’s thinking. He says he served his country in the military and fought for the right to do what he wanted.

“When Inslee has a Purple Heart, then he can tell me what to do,” said Alcorn, who lives in Arlington and teaches Taekwondo.

“The governor has never fully served his country,” he continued. “We have fought to protect the rights of every citizen. We fought, we led … I have brothers in coffins six feet under.”

Inslee made an order, not a law, Alcorn said, “And when it’s a law, we will respect you. In the meantime, I’m going to do what I please.”

Nearby, Curtis Kimble listened. He agreed Inslee made an order, and not a law.

“If there’s a law that the governor passes, then I’ll follow it,” said Kimble. “Otherwise, I’m doing what I need to do. I just want to get a haircut, and I feel safe. You don’t have COVID. I don’t have COVID. We’re safe.

“And it’s been long enough.”

The issue, he said, is why the orders weren’t being enforced.

“It’s sad,” he said. “Since nobody’s enforcing the orders, we kind of feel like we’re safe. Whether we’re safe or not, who knows?”

Kevin Nigh of Arlington walked out of the shop, his pale scalp visible through his buzz cut, his neck tan, and a smile on his face.

“So, so much better,” he said. “I was in the military for 28 years and getting your hair cut gets ingrained in you. Grooming standards. And I feel perfectly safe.”

Kimble learned the bibs in the shop bore the American flag, and turned and walked to his car.

“I’m not going to get a haircut with an American flag bib,” he said, and left.


© 2020 The Seattle Times