A Pawcatuck barbershop owner opened her business on Wednesday in defiance of Gov. Ned Lamont's order that hair salons and barbershops remain closed through June 1.
“If I don’t open now I am not going to be able to pay the overhead on this place," said Cat Thibodeau, owner of Modern Barber and Shave. "I am not going to be able to keep the doors open. To me, it is not really a choice. This is what I have to do in order to keep my business.”
Thibodeau said she has spent the last several weeks gearing up for a May 20 opening date, the date Gov. Lamont originally announced hair salons would be able to reopen with restrictions. He changed his mind on Monday after he said he heard from numerous salon owners and stylists who thought May 20 was too early to open safely. Lamont announced on Tuesday that hair salons and barbershops would be able to open on June 1.
Thibodeau said she has booked customers through June 1. She is doing about 10-15 appointments a day to give enough time to sanitize in between customers.
She said she switched everything over to contactless payment, has secured PPE, had a company disinfect everything, and said she spent thousands of dollars to open in accordance with health guidelines.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ledge Light Health District, which has jurisdiction over establishments in Pawcatuck, said it is unclear if it is up to their agency to police the barbershop. Director of Health for Ledge Light Health District Stephen Mansfield told NBC Connecticut they weren't sure if they had the regulatory authority to enforce the governor's order.
Ledge Light did send someone to inspect Modern Barber and Shave to make sure Thibodeau was following all public health guidelines. Thibodeau passed the inspection, according to Mansfield.
After some clarification from the state, Ledge Light said Wednesday afternoon that they would enforce the governor's order.
Mansfield said later Wednesday that they called Thibodeau to inform her that she will be receiving a public health order of closure Thursday morning. That order will be delivered by police or a marshal. After the order is issued, the next steps will be in the hands of the police. He said the situation will basically be a test case for the state.
"We are the messenger for the governor's executive orders and it is something we are mandated to do. We understand it puts the owner and her staff in a very difficult position. They will have to wait for the governor to give the OK to reopen their establishment," Mansfield said.
“If the governor sends them an order that says they need to shut me down, then they are going to come in here and do that. Until that time, I am going to be here and if they do that, I will call a lawyer and I will go through all of the proper legal channels to get back up and running," Thibodeau said.