BELLOWS FALLS -- A village barber has been temporarily shut down by the state after it was discovered that he doesn't have a shop license. In addition, a state inspection found a number of deficiencies at the shop.
Michael Aldrich, owner of Mike's Barber Shop, said he has fixed the deficiencies but is still barred from cutting hair until he gets a shop license, which has been mandatory for barbers in Vermont since 1997. Aldrich said he has a barber's license but was never told he needed a shop license, too.
These problems were discovered when State Inspector Connie White was driving through The Square on May 17, 2012. Chris Winter, the director of the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation, which includes the Vermont Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, said Mike's Barber Shop was not on White's list but she stopped in when she saw the barber's pole outside. White found about eight violations in the establishment and learned Aldrich did not have a shop license.
Aldrich told the Reformer he had to replace his plywood floor in the bathroom with linoleum because plywood "isn't washable," had to get a hot water faucet for the bathroom sink and use a door to separate the toilet and sink from his supplies. He said he must also more rigorously sweep his barber chair and the floor around it.
He also had to get a required blood-spatter kit for $16.
Winters said the legal minimum requirements are for sanitation and safety purposes only. In addition to fixing the deficiencies, he has been ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $1,000 and perform 40 hours of community service.
Aldrich said it cost him about $1,000 to get an electrician, plumber and carpenter to fix the deficiencies. He said he has since mailed a check (which has been cashed) for the necessary $300 for a shop license, but has not yet received it. He said he is waiting to set up an appointment with White.
"It's nerve-wracking -- because I've still got house payments," he said, adding that he is fortunate enough that his wife also works.
Once his shop reopens, he will be subject to four random state inspections over the next two years. He must also pass the Jurisprudence Portion of the Barbers and Cosmetologists Exam.
He said there is too much regulation in the industry and it can suffocate independent businesses.
"This country is going to hell. It scares me," he said. "They're not supposed to be dictators. These are the people that are supposed to help you to try to keep businesses going.
"I can't pass (inspection) if they don't want me to pass," he continued. "If they want to find something wrong, they will."
Aldrich said many of his friends have sent letters to the state expressing their dismay over what he has gone through. One lifelong friend, Charles Houghton, DMD, told the Reformer fines could cripple Aldrich. He said the regulation is ridiculous, citing that chairs in a hospital emergency room aren't required to be sprayed down, but barber chairs are.
"It just defies what's reasonable. I understand Mike's frustration," said Houghton, who now lives in Virginia for six months a year, but grew up in Walpole, N.H., and owns a property in Alstead, N.H. "(Aldrich) is loved through the town. If friends were dollar bills, he'd be a millionaire."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.