By Morgan Bryce
While Alabama is well on its way to flattening the curve of COVID-19 following the virus’s peak in the state on April 20, many service-oriented businesses remain closed under Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Safer-at-Home” order, which is supposed to remain in effect until at least May 15.
Under the new order that Ivey issued on April 28, retail stores were allowed to open as long as they maintained 50% capacity. However, athletic activities and facilities, entertainment venues and close-contact service providers including barber shops, hair and nail salons as well as tattoo parlors were to remain closed.
Robb Todd is the owner of Elements Salon in Opelika, one of the businesses still shuttered through this order and officially closed since March 28. Self-employed, he is one of many who said they have been unable to receive unemployment benefits and is desperately seeking a way to reopen to help pay his mounting bills.
“I’ve been doing hair for 31 years, and with all the hair stylists that I know in the area, we’re all devastated by this since we’re all self-employed people,” Todd said. “I wanted to take action two (to) three weeks ago but I decided to wait it out, and then when she announced this past Tuesday that she was not letting us open up, (and) I knew I had to do something.”
That led him to create a petition on Change.org, which as of press time, had more than 450 signatures. Commenters on the petition represented a gamut of service-oriented industries.
“I am a single mom and cosmetologist, and I need to get back to work” wrote Jennifer Rigby. “We are trained in sanitation and preventing the spread of diseases before we can even get our license so let us open!”
“I have been fully educated on disinfecting and sanitizing all of my tools and surfaces,” posted Jacqueline Williams. “I took more precautions before COVID-19 than retail stores are (currently) doing. My colleagues and I should be allowed to safely work.”
Todd’s push for reopening is being bolstered by Opelika attorney and native Zach Alsobrook, who electronically filed a Petition for a Restraining Order to the Montgomery County Circuit Court last Friday against State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and Gov. Kay Ivey “for their selective shutdown of Elements Salon on behalf of all salons and barber shops across the state.”
“There is not a single statute, clause or otherwise in the Alabama Code or our Constitution which gives the State Board of Health the legal authority to decide which businesses get to survive and which get to fail. Legislatures make law. Executives do not make law. And unelected state health officials most certainly do not make law,” Alsobrook said in a statement.
Todd’s ultimate goal is simply to reopen his business, but said he would see a legal victory as setting an important precedence for future instances where people in his industry or similar ones are faced with the possibility of long-term closures.
“If we win, it means we were able to give the power back to the hairstylist and that this will set precedence in the future in case this ever happens again,” Todd said. “I didn’t mind being the boys for every hair stylist in the state of Alabama. Somebody needed to do it. I know I possibly (might) get criticized and have haters for this, but then I’ll also have the people who thank me and there’s the people that matter in my life my friends and my family.”
To view or sign Todd’s petition, visit the following link: www.change.org/p/hairstylist-tattoo-massage-wait-staff-get-alabama-back-to-work.
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