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Will police shut down Pawcatuck barber?

Stonington — It is unclear if police will stop a Pawcatuck barber shop owner from continuing to operate when she opens Wednesday morning.

Last Wednesday Cat Thibodeau, owner of Modern Barber & Shave, defied an executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont that prohibited barber shops and salons from opening until early next month.

After allowing her to operate last Wednesday, citing confusion about the intent of Lamont’s executive order, Ledge Light Health District then ordered Thibodeau to stop operating on Thursday. She refused to comply, her lawyers filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health and Ledge Light and on Saturday her supporters rallied in the rain outside her shop as she cut hair inside.

“It was really amazing to see people come out even in the bad weather,” she said.

Thibodeau said Tuesday that she tentatively plans to open Wednesday morning, as she has 15 appointments scheduled throughout the day. She has been closed since Sunday.

“If I don’t hear from anyone, I’ll open,” she said.

Thibodeau said she also is waiting for a judge to rule on her lawsuit, which alleges Lamont's order is illegal. That may take some time, as the court system is operating at a reduced level due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Stonington police Capt. Todd Olson said police have been in discussions with Ledge Light and the New London State’s Attorney Office about the order. New London State’s Attorney Michael Regan declined comment Tuesday.

Ledge Light Director of Health Stephen Mansfield said Tuesday he could not comment about the Modern Barber issue due to the pending litigation.

In general, though, he said when a health district issues an order for someone to comply with a health regulation, they almost always do. He said when someone refuses, “it’s new ground for us.” He said the next step is for the local health district to contact local police for enforcement.

Thibodeau has said she needed to reopen to keep her 6-year-old business afloat and had spent $5,000 on gloves, masks, sanitizer and cleaning materials, as well as software for an online booking system. She is allowing only one customer at a time into her shop.

Barber shops originally had been on the list of businesses that could reopen last Wednesday with a long list of requirements to protect employees and customers. But 36 hours before the reopening, Lamont changed his mind, saying barber shops and hair salons had to stay closed until early June, so Connecticut would be in line with the schedule being used in Rhode Island.

He also had been urged by some salon owners across the state to delay the reopening date because they were not ready to reopen or their employees had concerns about returning to work, including how to provide child care and home schooling. Thibodeau had complained that the governor had not even given shop owners 48 hours’ notice after she had worked for weeks to get ready to reopen and was booked solid into June.

Her lawsuit alleges Lamont “exceeded” his powers by decreeing that salons and barber shops could not reopen as scheduled Wednesday, and that the public health order issued by the health district was contrary to state law, as the barber shop had been found to be in compliance with all of the safety requirements set forth by the state for reopening.


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