SNOHOMISH — Barber Bob Martin keeps cutting hair and brushing aside attempts by the state to get him to stop.
Starting in early May, customers streamed into The Stag Barber Shop in spite of statewide directives barring barber shops and other nonessential businesses from operating in Snohomish County amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He continued serving patrons after the state Department of Licensing suspended his cosmetology operator license and served him with a cease-and-desist order for doing business without a salon shop license.
He didn’t blink when a letter arrived from the Snohomish Health District warning the 79-year-old that he could face criminal charges if he didn’t immediately stop giving haircuts.
And he’s not changed his behavior in spite of May 20 correspondence from the Attorney General’s Office saying that unless he complied with the rules and closed within 48 hours, “we will have no choice but to file a lawsuit against you and seek monetary penalties. This is your final warning.”
As of Thursday, Martin hadn’t been arrested or sued, though those are still possibilities.
And the Department of Licensing had not imposed further punishment, such as revoking his barber’s license or fining him $5,000 for every day he operates. Those options are possible, too.
“We will continue with our action as it relates to his unlicensed activity,” agency spokeswoman Christine Anthony said in an email.
The Attorney General’s Office is counsel for the licensing agency. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bob Ferguson explained in an email that they are letting the regulatory process proceed and legal action is still an option.
“The purpose of our letter was to make Mr. Martin aware of the full scope of potential penalties he could face as a result of his actions,” she wrote. “While our Cease and Desist letter does not specifically reference a consumer protection lawsuit, Mr. Martin could still face a consumer protection lawsuit, just as he remains subject to criminal penalties if he continues to willfully violate the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy proclamation.”
Initially, Martin was alleged to have violated Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order. That expired May 31, but non-essential businesses like his were not supposed to be open until Snohomish County moved to the next phase of the state’s reopening process. That happened Friday.
Even so, his case won’t be moot, Anthony said.
Martin declined to be interviewed Thursday, referring calls to his legal advisor, Rick Martin of Texas, who is not related.
Rick Martin would not confirm or deny that his client received any of the communiques, including the attorney general’s cease-and-desist order.
“Who’s to say we ever received it?” he said. “We’re not acknowledging we ever received it.”
Bob Martin’s licenses are up to date, he said. Records of the state agency say otherwise.
And Rick Martin insisted the state lacks legal authority to take the scissors out of his client’s hands.
“He is totally legit. We’re not going to pay attention to those scam orders,” Rick Martin said. “You cannot force people to close their businesses.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos
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