Customers can’t take a seat in barbershop chairs anymore, and now board officials are the ones saying “next” as complaints about people continuing to cut hair and provide beauty services roll in.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced March 18 that barbershops, nail salons and beauty salons must close. Since then, more than 100 complaints have been filed with the state about people continuing to offer these services.
As of Friday, the Ohio State Cosmetology and Barber Board had received 141 complaints since the shutdown began — 133 of them for people continuing to practice during the coronavirus pandemic.
The board licenses individuals and businesses in the beauty and hair-cutting industry, including barbers, hairstylists, cosmetologists, manicurists and other professionals.
Agency Counsel Charley Yaniko said it’s been a significantly higher number of complaints than normal. The board has received 286 complaints this year — close to half in about a month.
Yaniko said operating an unlicensed salon or barbershop could result in a fine, and if the offenders are licensed, they could lose that license. Violators could also be charged for operating without a license and/or violating the state’s health order. Both are misdemeanor charges.
Unlicensed operators are facing complaints as well.
Records show complaints were filed for a range of things, but Yaniko said the majority of complaints accuse people of offering services from their home.
While coronavirus is stopping barbers, it’s also hindering the licensing board’s investigations because staff members are working remotely. Yaniko said it’s unknown how many of the complaints are valid.
“It’s difficult to tell,” she said. “The vast majority of individuals who have responded to board correspondence have denied any wrongdoing.”
“The board is limited in how it can address some of these issues … and the board is currently not conducting in-person inspections and investigations,” Yaniko said, adding the state board employees are “working collaboratively to timely send out correspondence to alleged violators and make the appropriate referrals.”
Yaniko said ultimately what work barbers and cosmetologists can and can’t do is decided by local health departments, who also resolve the majority of complaints.
Summit County Public Health Environmental Health Director Tonia Burford said complaints have been slowing down, but the agency has dealt with a “heavy handful” of them related to barbershops and salons.
For the most part, shops have been compliant, she said. However, she said, the department hears whispers of people providing services from home.
No one has been referred to the licensing board yet, but it would be a step the health department is willing to take, she said. That could lead to the offender losing his or her license.
“Having a license for professionals is a lot like having a driver’s license,” Burford said. “Every time you speed, you don’t get caught. If they want to take that chance with their license, that’s their choice.”