SNOHOMISH — He is making America groomed again.
Bob Martin, who has cut hair behind the same chair for 51 years in Snohomish, said he has trimmed about 150 heads since the weekend’s opening of Stag Barber and Styling.
He reopened in open defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order, closing shops to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“I’m supporting all these patriots and they’re supporting me,” Martin said Tuesday. “I am standing up for the Constitution.”
He called the order “a scam.”
As of Tuesday, there were more than 1.2 million cases of COVID-19 and over 71,000 deaths in the United States. In Snohomish County, 111 people have died from the virus and some 2,500 have tested positive.
Martin wore a black “Essential” hat as he draped an American flag like a cape over a customer. He went to work with ungloved hands, snipping a shock of thick white hair. An ammunition belt held the cape in place.
Through the early afternoon Tuesday, at least a dozen men stood in line at any given time. Several waited inside the shop, where there’s a Trump sign in the window. The line went past O’Reilly Auto Parts next door.
You wouldn’t know there was a pandemic going on. Not one person wore a face mask. There were no marks on the sidewalk for social distancing.
Martin had a red bandana around his neck that he raises over his mouth “if it feels like I’m going to have a sneeze,” he said.
Health precautions are “the usual stuff.”
“If they got a cold I’ll give them a shot of whiskey, that will kill the germs,” Martin said. “I wash my hands between every customer.”
His bare hands touched Mike Daniels, the guy with the white hair. At times the two men’s faces were inches away from each other.
“I’ll wash up, take a shower as soon as I get done,” Daniels said.
Waiting in line, Pablo Mummey said he wasn’t worried about getting the virus.
“I just need a haircut,” he said.
Other than the line, it was business as usual in the shopping complex on Avenue D anchored by Haggen. The only disruption was a man with a gray ponytail who walked by and yelled, “Guys, let it grow. Just let it grow!”
Martin said he felt emboldened to reopen after Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said he would not enforce Inslee’s stay-home order. Fortney made the announcement in a long Facebook post at the end of April. He called the restrictions unconstitutional.
The sheriff took to Facebook again on Monday.
“I have never encouraged defiance of the law,” Fortney wrote. “To the contrary, I have encouraged residents and business owners to exercise their rights under the law by reaching out and contacting their local leaders and state representatives.”
Fortney added that the sheriff’s office will “continue to encourage voluntary compliance and help educate the public on how to keep themselves safe, their families safe, and the rest of our community safe, especially our vulnerable populations.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that anyone over 65 years old is at risk of severe illness or death, if infected with the coronavirus.
Martin is 78.
Police services in Snohomish are contracted through the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The city and the Snohomish Police Department encourage people to report business violations to the state, Chief of Police Keith Rogers said in an email.
When asked about enforcement, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Courtney O’Keefe said the state Department of Licensing is handling the case. At this point, that department doesn’t plan to discipline Martin for opening his shop.
“We are at the beginning stages of our process, which means he will be receiving a letter of education on the Governor’s order. Again, our hope is voluntary compliance with the order,” said Department of Licensing spokeswoman Christine Anthony in an email Monday.
If he loses his barber license, Martin said, “I’ll work anyway. I don’t care.”
Inslee issued his statewide stay-home order March 23. Almost immediately, calls started pouring in from residents concerned about businesses and individuals not abiding its restrictions.
A week later, the state launched an online complaint form allowing anyone to report a company, or an activity, they think is violating the executive order, now set to expire May 31.
As of Monday, more than 25,000 complaints had been received. More than 12,200 reports alleged that a nonessential business was operating. Of those, about 1,190 specifically cited a barber shop, hair salon or other cosmetology-related service.
The actual number of businesses identified in complaints is fewer, as some are the target of multiple claims.
In the past five weeks, there have been about 1,470 complaints related to restaurants including 350 for allowing diners to sit and enjoy their meal. Hundreds of complaints have also been received against golf courses, landscaping firms, retailers, car dealerships and craft stores.
There have been more than 2,100 complaints alleging violations of the stay-home order’s limit on large gatherings. Of those, 424 cited parks and 180 mentioned churches.
Thus far only one firm, Star Nails in Port Orchard, has faced punishment from a state enforcement agency. On April 22, after several warnings for violating the stay-home restrictions, the state Department of Licensing issued a “summary suspension” — an order to immediately stop operations.
Inslee addressed Martin during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
“This person in Snohomish County, they’re going to have to come into compliance,” Inslee said. He added that over 100 people have complained and made clear they are not happy with the situation.
Herald reporters Jerry Cornfield and Stephanie Davey contributed to this report.