A Trump-loving barber in Washington state is defying the governor’s orders to close shop in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, telling one local newspaper, “You have to stand up for what you believe in.”
Bob Martin, the 79-year-old proprietor of Stag Barbershop, is refusing to shut down his business in a Snohomish strip mall—even after the state suspended his license and he received a cease-and-desist letter from the state attorney general.
“Unless you follow the direction of the Governor, the Department of Licensing, and the Snohomish Health District, and close your barbershop within 48 hours, we will have no choice but to file a lawsuit against you and seek monetary penalties,” warned the missive delivered Wednesday. “This is your final warning."
Martin appears to have no plans to comply. When The Daily Beast called Martin’s shop Thursday, an answering machine recording announced the date, then said the business would be open from 8:30 a.m. until last call at 4:30 p.m., because there’s been “such a big long line” lately. The recording said they’d take walk-ins Friday and Saturday, too.
The barber, who says he served in the Marine Corps, told the Everett Herald this month that he and his customers are “patriots.” Martin has been photographed wearing a Trump 2020 hat, as well as a black cap with the word “Essential.”
Martin recently told at least two news outlets he felt emboldened to reopen Stag after Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney declared he would not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders. (Fortney did not return messages seeking comment, but a sheriff’s spokeswoman said the agency “was asked by Governor Inslee’s Office to serve a letter from [the Department of Licensing] to the barbershop owner, which we did do.”)
“The governor shouldn’t be overstepping his bounds to keep people from making a livelihood,” Martin told KING 5, an NBC affiliate in Seattle. “I think Inslee ought to be listening to Trump instead of acting like a dictator.”
Still, Washington state has been praised by epidemiologists, including the country’s top COVID expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, for flattening the curve of cases.
Like fellow anti-lockdown business owners, including Dallas hairstylist Shelley Luther, who made national news after she was jailed in connection to her refusal to stay closed, Martin has the support of right-wing protesters and their ilk online.
New Jersey’s Atilis Gym, which flouted the state’s stay-at-home order, had reopened on Monday to much fanfare, claiming a shutdown of non-essential businesses was unconstitutional. They opened their doors amid a crowd chanting “USA! USA!” live on Fox and Friends.
But the Bellmawr facility was apparently foiled by its own sewer system. “Alright guys, so we arrived at the gym this morning to Governor [Phil] Murphy’s dirty tricks, playing with his power in the health department,” one of the owners, Ian Smith, said in an Instagram story Thursday. “For right now, the gym will be closed.” Authorities in New Jersey shut down the gym on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, a dozen barbers and stylists defied Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home orders Wednesday with a state Capitol protest designated “Operation Haircut.”
According to MLive.com, the illegal gathering was organized by a group called the Michigan Conservative Coalition, which supports President Trump, to oppose Gov. Whitmer’s safety measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Police issued $500 citations to seven people for cutting hair at the rally, which drew the support of a maskless crowd that included rifle-toting demonstrators.
Karl Menke, a 77-year-old barber in Owasso, has also kept his shop running this month in defiance of Gov. Whitmer’s order, even after the state suspended his license. “I’ll be open until Jesus walks in or until they arrest me,” he told MLive on May 6.
On Thursday, a circuit court judge declined the state’s request to issue an injunction against Menke, saying the danger to public safety “must be actual and not theoretical.” Earlier this week, the Dallas hairstylist Luther—who seems to be basking in the spotlight of her anti-shutdown efforts as a conservative hero and raised nearly $500,000 in a GoFundMe fundraiser—traveled to Michigan to support Menke.
Back in Washington State, Martin could not be reached for comment on Thursday. He told KOMO News, a local TV station, that he’s working with an attorney in Texas that specializes in constitutional law in order to fight the government’s cease-and-desist.
“God bless all those waiting in line. Rise up America...Rise up!” one commenter wrote in response to a photo of the lines to get into Martin’s American-flag-and-taxidermy-decorated parlor. The image, shared May 2 on a Washington anti-lockdown Facebook group, came with the caption, “Stag Barbershop in Snohomish is open for business! There is a long line though. Most important haircut I ever got!”
In a separate conservative group, a customer fumed on May 5: “In line at the Barber in Snohomish. My form of protest!” He later added, “We had a woman literally block the intersection and scream, ‘I can’t wait to go to your funerals’ while blasting an air horn. I responded, ‘Go home Karen.’”
“Civil disobedience against unjust and unconstitutional actions are our duty,” another man chimed in.
One friend launched a GoFundMe for Martin that declares, “Bob is under attack from a dictatorial socialist governor for constitutionally opening his business so he can pay his bills and put food on the table.”
A second supporter created a separate fundraiser that put the sentiment a bit more mildly: “NOBODY in this state should be denied the right to make a living based on evidence that doesn’t add up and arbitrary proclamations from a power hungry governor.”
The state of Washington disagrees.
“The Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is necessary for public health. The COVID-19 virus spreads easily from person to person and the only way to control it, and save lives, is to maintain social distancing, including closing nonessential business,” says the May 20 warning letter from assistant attorney general Daniel Allen.
“By keeping your barbershop open, you are endangering the lives of your customers and your community,” Allen continued. “It is also unfair for you to offer barbershop services while your competitors are complying with the Proclamation and making sacrifices for the benefit of the community.”