SNOHOMISH — Barber Bob Martin isn’t surrendering his scissors without a fight.
He welcomed customers into The Stag Barber shop Tuesday morning in spite of action by the state to suspend his license and close down his business, which has been operating this month in open defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order.
“I served several years in the Marine Corps and I’m not going to put up with this crap,” Martin, 79, said Tuesday.
On Friday, the state suspended Martin’s cosmetology operator license, which is valid through June 6, 2021, and served him with a cease and desist order for doing business without a salon shop license. His license for the shop expired March 10, 2017, according to the agency. If he fails to comply, he could face fines and revocation of his barber and business licenses.
Those documents now hang on a wall of the shop alongside a “My Governor is an Idiot” bumper sticker with the state logo of George Washington.
Also Friday, the Snohomish County Health District sent him a certified letter directing him to immediately stop all appointments or face the possibility of criminal charges.
Martin said he first saw it Tuesday.
“I got something from the health department that because of COVID-19 I shouldn’t have any business going on,” he acknowledged.
The unfazed barber said he’s staying open anyway.
“Absolutely. No question about it,” he said. “We’ll fight that right down to the end.”
Martin, wearing a Trump 2020 cap, said he and his customers are “patriots.”
“You have to stand up for what you believe in,” he said. “There are a lot of people like me. If I’m guilty so is everybody coming in here.”
Martin has 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.
In a subsequent post, Fortney said he “never encouraged defiance of the law. 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.”
Martin started delivering fades and trims in clandestine fashion — until May 1 when KING 5 television did a story on him.
Since then, people have lined up outside the shop in the shopping complex on Avenue D anchored by Haggen.
“I’m busier than I want to be,” Martin said.
He wasn’t wearing gloves or a mask Tuesday. He told The Daily Herald last week that he washes his hands between customers.
“If they got a cold I’ll give them a shot of whiskey, that will kill the germs,” Martin said.
He wasn’t alone Tuesday. Two other barbers were busy. In one chair, a boy who looked to be about 12 got a buzzcut. About 10 men waited their turn, standing in line within a few feet of each other. Two wore masks.
By May 5, the state agency had received about 165 complaints of the shop operating in violation of the stay-home order, a major prong in the state’s effort to blunt the spread of coronavirus. Put in place March 23, it required non-essential businesses like barber shops to close. It is in force until May 31.
As of Tuesday, there were more than 1.32 million cases of COVID-19 and about 80,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Snohomish County, 120 people have died from the virus and nearly 3,000 have tested positive.
Washington has begun reopening its economy in stages. Barber shops, beauty salons and other cosmetology services cannot reopen until the second phase of the state’s reopening, which will be June 1 at the earliest.
Last week, the Department of Licensing notified Martin that what he was doing violated the emergency order.
Agency investigators drove by the shop on Wednesday and Thursday, each time noting “it was open for business as evidenced by the open front door and at least seven apparent potential customers waiting outside in a line going into the barbershop,” according to filings by the department.
On Friday, Martin was served with the cease and desist order by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Department of Licensing. The order, along with the suspension of Martin’s license, took effect immediately and he should not be operating, an agency spokeswoman said.
Martin can challenge the disciplinary actions. He has until May 28 to request a hearing on the charges. If he does not comply, he could face fines and revocation of both his barber and businesses licenses.
“If we find he is still operating, we will refer him to the Attorney General’s Office,” DOL spokeswoman Christine Anthony said in an email.
The health district letter, signed by health officer Dr. Chris Spitters, said if Martin doesn’t comply, his agency could “petition the Snohomish County Superior Court for compliance and/or to refer the matter to the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney for consideration of criminal charges.”
Meantime, it was haircuts as usual in the shop with taxidermied animals on the wall and prolonged country music.
Tom Mueller came from Camano Island to get a haircut at Martin’s shop because his usual Stanwood barber wasn’t open. He was one of the two people in line wearing a mask Tuesday morning.
“Look at my hair,” Mueller said. “I need it cut. My wife didn’t want to do it.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.